ENTERPRISE – Thanks to the hard work of a “great team” at Enterprise State Community College and the Alabama Aviation College, enrollment numbers have increased almost five percent since last fall, defying national trends.
“Nationally, the trend right now is enrollments are declining because of a strong economy and people are working,” Associate Dean of Students/Director of Financial Aid Dr. Kevin Ammons said. “Usually with those trends, people don’t go to school, but we’re seeing increases during a strong economy, which is the result of ESCC’s ability to educate and put people into the workforce.”
ESCC and the AAC have collectively seen a 1.5 percent increase in enrollment since Fall 2016, exceeding previous enrollment numbers before the decision to release the Mobile and Albertville AAC campuses in Spring of 2018 and rising from 1758 enrollments in Fall 2016 to 1785 enrollments in Fall 2019.
“Alabama’s community colleges across the state are laser-focused on the student experience and by implementing best practices and programs that benefit the students they serve, Enterprise State is seeing great success across the board,” said Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker. “I’m proud of the faculty, staff, and administration at Enterprise State for their hard work to meet the needs of the communities they serve.”
“We have not only grown above where we were four years ago, but we have grown past our enrollment without Mobile and Albertville campuses,” Ammons said. “Our future’s very bright. Our aviation programs are thriving. Enrollment is increasing because people are able to go to the colleges and are becoming employed.”
President Matt Rodgers attributes this rise in student enrollments to a “great team of people” at both colleges working to provide quality education and training to the local communities.
“We have a great team of people here at ESCC and the AAC,” Rodgers said. “From our recruiters and financial aid advisors to our instructors and administration and everyone in between, this team works every day to be an active part of the local communities by connecting with local school systems and meeting with business and industry leaders while continuing to make changes to our campuses to provide the best educational experiences for our students. Our ultimate goal is to serve and be our communities’ college. We are working hard to earn their trust and win their respect. I am proud of our team and appreciative of the students who chose to continue their education at the college. We will give them our best every day.”
Several buildings on both campuses are the focus of enhancement projects, including Snuggs Hall, Talmadge Hall, Forrester Hall, and Sessions Hall on ESCC’s campus and Higham on the AAC campus.
The library, located in Snuggs Hall, is home to the new Boll Weevil Central, a social area where students can study, get tutoring services and advising. Forrester Hall will be home to a new black box theater and more classrooms for the college’s Fine Arts department, one department that has seen significant growth in the past year.
“We have grown from two choirs to three choirs,” Fine Arts Department Chair Ken Thomas said. “We have six music appreciation courses; five are filled.
“With the visual arts, all of our art appreciation courses are filled to capacity. We’re experiencing a tremendous amount of growth right now, and we’re really excited about the future of the fine arts division here at ESCC.”
Thomas said the renovations to Forrester Hall, the “quality of instruction” and opportunities, such as performance opportunities at Carnegie Hall, for students have helped the program grow.
“Students know they will get a good education here and many opportunities in the fine arts,” he said. “We’re really excited about what’s going on.”
On the AAC campus, more programs, such as the CDL program introduced in Fall 2018 and the new mechatronics program that opened this fall semester, offers more opportunities to students to be trained to join the workforce. Additionally, current programs are seeing new instructional features, such as a new turbine engine model for use in the college’s Aviation Maintenance Technician Program.
Recruitment efforts have increased in the past year, with ESCC and AAC recruiters and career coaches Adonis Bozeman, Emily Harrelson and Jenna Strickland meeting with guidance counselors, office staff and students around the Wiregrass, often with a snack in hand. ESCC faculty and staff have also traveled around the Wiregrass to support local high school football teams and promote the college. Even ESCC’s own Bo Weevil has become a familiar face at local events such as ribbons cutting and presentations.
Implementing new programs, such as Mechatronics, CDL, Paramedic, Advanced Composites, Information Security and Assurance, and Medical Assisting Technology have opened more opportunities for the ESCC and AAC service areas. ESCC has grown dual enrollment sites spanning from Covington County to Houston County to allow more high schools students the ability to access these new workforce programs.
ESCC has also been a host to acting workshops by local theater company, SEACT, and held its own STEM-focused workshop for local, teenage girls called “Girls Can Code.” Sports camps and ESCC’s annual Camp Weevil have also brought more community members to the campus in recent months.
These efforts by the ESCC and the AAC team have helped the college surpass previous enrollment numbers, and Ammons said both colleges hope to see continued growth.
“We want to keep raising the bar,” he said. “We’ve increased our enrollment by 4.6 percent this fall. We’d never settle for a goal as far as a number we want to reach because we always want to keep climbing and see our enrollment grow each semester, but we would like to see us ultimately above 2,000. I don’t think we’re far from reaching that goal at all.”
ESCC services 5 Alabama counties in the Wiregrass area. The AAC services Alabama, as well as Georgia, and Florida. Both colleges provide education and training conveniently and affordably.
“Community colleges provide two of the biggest conveniences for students: affordability and accessibility,” Ammons said. “Community college is not discounted; it’s not clearance education. It’s the biggest bang for your buck. Students can leave here debt free. We offer multiple scholarships, and students leave either using a stepping stone to higher education at a four-year school or receiving the skills and training they need to enter the workforce.
“We’re available for any educational need, whether you’re wanting to go to work, to learn new skills or come back to refresh your skills or looking to transfer to a four-year institution. We can help you get there.”