Fall enrollment down at SPC
After dropping 2.5 percent last year, enrollment at St. Petersburg College was down again when classes started yesterday.
On the first day of fall classes in 2012, 32,370 students had signed up for 279,062 semester hours. Both figures dropped 2.2 percent in 2013, with 31,650 students enrolled in 272,903 semester hours.
The head count dropped most significantly for "continuing students," or those who had previously been to college and were returning: 22,896 enrolled this fall, a 3 percent drop.
SPC President William Law, Jr., acknowledged that enrollment tends to drop when the economy rebounds and more adult students return to work. Inversely, during severe recession more adults tend to come back to school.
But Law said SPC had also been "complicit" in the enrollment drop. Last spring, for the first time, SPC sent out 2,000 probation letters to students who were not completing courses they'd signed up for. Typically, students were put on probation only for low grade-point averages, not based on course completion.
When on probation, students are limited by how many classes they can take. This may have caused students who weren't cutting it to leave SPC before the fall.
Law said he also believed students who weren't doing well were losing their federal financial aid and dropping out.
SPC staff said they had not yet analyzed all the reasons behind the enrollment trend, but the numbers do suggest that fewer students re-enrolled: As of Monday, 6,316 new students had enrolled at SPC, down only 100 students from last fall.
This year's decline was also divided by race, with 4 percent fewer white students enrolling (although they remained the largest segment of the student body, with 21,018 signing up). The Hispanic population showed the biggest enrollment increase at 7.8 percent (3,258 students).
Enrollment of 22- to 25-year-olds remained level, while fewer students 26 and older signed up. High school students - the 18 and under crowd - continued to show interest in college-level coursework, with 4,890 enrolling this fall, an increase of 3.1 percent.
Overall, SPC enrollment is likely higher than it was six years ago, when 37,095 students enrolled throughout the year. Last year, 44,258 students enrolled.