Dr. Hans Andrews is the Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership through Olney Central College in Olney, Illinois. He is a former president of the college. He also served as Dean of Instruction at Illinois Valley Community College and Vice President for Community and Student Services at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was an adjunct teacher for Illinois State University and a business teacher-counselor in two secondary schools.
“We are only limited by our imagination!” – Dr. Richard Whitmore, Former President of Kellogg Community College
Community and technical colleges across the United States have felt a major blow to their enrollments over several years. The Pandemic in recent years only added to the decline in enrollments that had already been underway. The community and technical colleges need to explore ways to attract former students back and new students from the adult population within their college districts.
The average number of recently graduated secondary school students as reported by Illinois Valley Community College has been steady at around 43 – 45 percent of the college bound students. It will not significantly change in the foreseeable future. The secondary school numbers might be considered finite as they are known from enrollment reports throughout each college district.
The area most neglected is the adult population which is almost unlimited in potential student numbers within each college district. Almost all college catalogs and course schedules are now only accessible to those who can find the colleges’ websites. It becomes difficult for the potential students who have been out of school for some time.
The following information is a ‘throwback’ to how one college, Kellogg Community College, in the mid-1970’s reached out to their full district to educate them on what a community college was about and could do for so many of them. It was followed up with printed schedules of their evening, off campus, and weekend classes that were also delivered for years to the homes throughout the district.
Developing an understandable catalog
Thank you for providing through the Sunday newspaper a college catalog that can be read and understood by people like me who have been away from school for many years. I can honestly say that this catalog has inspired me to talk to one of your counselors. Now I’m going to register for one of your weekend classes to start broadening my education.
This is precisely what the college president was hoping would be the outcome from an innovative catalog. He had for several years asked his administrative staff to produce a college catalog that was for a community college.
The American Association of Community and Junior Colleges (AACJC) in the mid- to late 1970’s was working hard to lead the large growing number of community colleges into a ‘community-based’ movement. They quickly accepted an article describing the KCC catalog’s new approach to a community college catalog. It was chosen by the AACJC Journal for their cover story (See Picture 1 Below).
The college had their catalog published by the largest local area newspaper. Just over 80,000 copies were published and delivered through all of the newspapers within the college district. This compared with the number of 2,000 copies published in prior years. The potential students they wished to attract included:
- High school graduates desiring transfer or career programs
- Mature adults and returning veterans
- Business persons needing training in management skills
- Foreigners who needed basic English skills
- Laborers wanting to upgrade their skills
- Women on welfare or with low incomes needing to develop skills for employment
- Physically handicapped needing skills training.
The college leaders recognized that most of the categories of future students they wished to reach would be drawn from the adult population.
The response back to the college was exceptional. In the first year following the distribution of the catalog over 250 new students enrolled. The largest growth was from the adult population as well as from several of the smaller communities throughout the college’s service area. The night program, now offering both on-campus and off-campus classes grew from near 600 to over 1,800 over the next four year period.
The college was soon learning that more children from those same adults might soon be considered as students at KCC. Parents were becoming the role models in their homes for their own children.
Improved information in the KCC catalog
There were several major changes to the catalog that made it more usable for secondary school counselors, agency job counselors and social workers throughout the district:
- Current job information on each of the college’s transfer programs, vocational and technical programs which were both one year and two year programs.
- All of the college courses that related to each of these program areas were listed below the job information.
- Embedded codes for each program that matched up with the ‘vocational personalities and work environment codes from the Self-Directed Career Search developed by John Holland (1973).
Understandable content: Credit hours
In the attempt to reach out to the many adults in the college district who had little knowledge about college and programs the administrators knew that the content needed to reflect that need.
College and high school counselors, teachers, administrators and others in the college talk about ‘credit hours.’ It is a term that lay persons normally have little understanding of what it is.
Career planning content information
The catalog used up-to-date ‘career information’ from the Occupation Outlook Handbook in addition to local job needs. The following are three short career overviews of the type that were included in this community based catalog:
Physical Therapy Assistants (PTA): What they do: Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses. Work Environment: Most physical assistants and aides work in physical therapists’ offices or in hospitals. PTA’s entering the occupation typically needs an associate’s degree from an accredited program and a license or certification. Median annual wage was $61,180 in May 2021.
Physical Therapy Aides: The PT Aides usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training. Median annual wage was $29,200 in May 2021.Job Outlook: Overall employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 24 percent from 2021 to 2031.
Accountants and Auditors: What they do: Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. Work Environment: Most accountants and auditors work full time. How to Become an Accountant or Auditor: A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is typically required to become an accountant or auditor. Pay: The median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $77,250 in May 2021.
Registered Nurses: What Registered Nurses do: Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients and the public about various health conditions. Work Environment: Registered nurses work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities. Others work in outpatient clinics and schools. How to Become a Registered Nurse: Registered nurses usually take one of three education paths: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, as associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Pay: The median annual wage for registered nurses was $77,600 in May 2021. Job Outlook: Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031.
Summarizing the need to diversify publications to attract adult students
The ‘Community-Based’ Catalog of Kellogg Community College was a first. Most of the early catalogs were primarily reflections of the university catalogs from the four-year colleges and universities.
College course schedules also need to be written carefully to speak to an adult audience unfamiliar with college ‘jargon.’ Simplified class schedules and enrollment processes need to be sent out to homes via mailings or distribution via newspapers or through direct mail to homes and businesses.
It is time to move forward and in some ways move backward to what worked in the past on enrollment growth. This time of significant enrollment declines speaks loudly to these changes being needed.
Whitmore, R.F., and Andrews, H.A. (1975, February). The Community-based college catalog. Community and Junior College Journal. Pp. 14-16.