While college enrollment across the country dropped this fall, especially at community colleges, the same did not hold true for Churchill County residents enrolling at Western Nevada College. WNC experienced a 12% increase in enrollment from Churchill County for fall semester 2020.
Much of the increase came from adults who were 25 years old and older, improving by 9% from the previous year. The other significant enrollment group is high school students participating in the Jump Start program and the dual credit classes taught at Churchill County High School and Oasis Academy.
Holly O’Toole, WNC’s Fallon Campus and Rural Outreach director said, “It’s important to serve all aspects of the community. We need to meet the needs of the high school population and the adult population. Doing that takes a huge commitment from every aspect of the campus and our enrollment partners. I really want to thank faculty and staff on both campuses for their efforts in maintaining enrollment during challenging times.”
WNC’s enrollment numbers from Churchill County are surprising yet encouraging, considering the national data. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, fall term enrollment across the country is down almost 5%. Community colleges experienced an alarming 18.9% drop in enrollment.
Another significant change is how students are receiving instruction. More students are opting for online only or a mix of online and in-class instruction with fewer taking just in-person classes.
In 2019, just 16% of Churchill County students registered for only online classes, but this fall 44% of the students used the online option — an increase of almost 30%. There was an 8% increase in the number of students who enrolled in a mix of online and in-person classes.
The only drop was in the number of students attending only in-person classes. In fall semester 2019, 62% of the student body attended just in-person classes. There was a dramatic shift of just 25% attending strictly in-person classes this fall.
How students are attending their classes likely has more to do with the changes in instruction because of the pandemic than with student choice. For safety precautions, fewer in-person classes were offered this semester, while the number of online class offerings increased.
WNC student Davanna Anderson said, even though she prefers in-person classes, she chose more online courses in case the college required in-person classes to transition to online during the semester. The online courses also offer more flexibility. The classes can be done on a student’s own time.
Anderson said another advantage to online courses is that she doesn’t have to worry about missing information from a lecture because all the information from the class can be accessed online all semester for review.
“There’s more accountability to engage in an in-person class, but online and hybrid classes are a new way where people have to hold themselves more accountable,” Anderson said.
WNC student Andre Easley likes the flexibility of online classes because the classes can be completed from his own home where he’s more comfortable, but he admits that he learns more from in-person classes, He would take more in-person classes if they were available unless they conflicted with his schedule.
“It’s better getting up and getting out of the house. I focus better in class and pay better attention, but it’s different for every person,” Easley said.
O’Toole hopes the positive enrollment increases will continue into 2021.
For anyone interested in registering for classes at WNC for the Spring 2021 semester, go to wnc.edu or call 775-423-7335.