MCC, ECC buck trend of declining student enrollment statewide
McHenry County College and Elgin Community College are bucking a statewide trend of declining student enrollment.
MCC has experienced significant growth during the past five years. The Crystal Lake college has 7,475 students enrolled this fall -- a 6.3% increase from the previous year and an overall 13.9% jump from 6,561 students in 2015, according to a new Illinois Community College Board report.
ECC is seeing a 3.7% increase with 9,917 students enrolled this fall, yet overall enrollment has declined 4.1% since 2015 when 10,336 students attended the college.
Other suburban community colleges are seeing drops in fall enrollment ranging from 0.4% at Harper College in Palatine to 5.6% at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove. College of DuPage, College of Lake County, Harper, Oakton Community College and Waubonsee have seen a steady decline in enrollment in each of the last four years.
Statewide, college enrollment has dipped by 4.2% from last fall and 14% overall since 2015 -- mirroring a nationwide trend.
Officials attribute MCC's enrollment increase to several factors, including new facilities such as the Liebman Science Center, and initiatives to attract, retain and graduate students. That includes creating career pathways in high-demand fields, such as computer numerical control, or CNC, and the industrial maintenance, welding, automotive and health professions.
The college is recruiting more diverse students, specifically targeting the area's Latino population, and increasing partnerships with McHenry County high schools through dual-credit and dual-degree programs -- most dual-credit students come from Huntley, Crystal Lake Central, Cary-Grove and Crystal Lake South high schools.
It also is adding more apprenticeships and collaborations with industry partners, and offering new professional certificate programs and more classes online, at night and in communities.
"We've put significant effort into student engagement and timely campuswide student support by creating an empowering environment to increase their success," said Talia Koronkiewicz, MCC's vice president of student affairs.
Despite seeing a steady decline in enrollment during the past four years, ECC might have turned a corner.
"We've had a fairly substantial spike in our traditional-age students, as well as dual-credit students," said David Rudden, ECC managing director of institutional research.
This fall, 2,282 high school graduates are attending ECC, and 593 high school students are taking dual-credit courses -- an increase of 232 students from last fall.
"We are intentionally trying to increase that and boost those relationships with the high schools," Rudden said.
The college is marketing directly to high school students to connect them with suitable programs. Yet, that likely won't stem the tide of declining college enrollment, Rudden said.
"The overall number of high school students and teenage students is decreasing and we have a growing number of adults," Rudden said. "If we expect to have increases in the future, that's the market that we will have to tap into more."
Meanwhile, enrollment in online classes has been trending upward over the last four years at suburban colleges. The biggest increase was at ECC -- up 36.7% from the fall of 2018 -- followed by Harper (14.1%), MCC (4.5%), CLC (3.6%), and COD (3.4%). Waubonsee and Oakton declined 3.3% and 0.6%, respectively, but saw increases in years past, per the report.