HOT SPRINGS — While credit student enrollment at National Park College has taken a dip this fall, total head count for credit and concurrent enrollment increased from 2,326 students to 2,336 students, according to preliminary fall enrollment numbers.
Program directors presented reports to the board of trustees during Wednesday’s monthly board meeting, in which enrollment data was discussed. The vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, Jerry Thomas, said that, as of the 11th-day census count, NPC had a 7% increase in new, first-time students.
Credit student enrollment this fall is 1,826 compared with 1,920 in 2021, while semester credit hours went from 22,445 to 21,743. He noted the drop is a late repercussion from the covid-19 pandemic, but he expects the number to increase in the future.
A record number of students are living on campus, as Dogwood Hall is completely full with 231 students this fall.
“These additional students, as you can imagine, living on our campus: they’ve created a lot of energy and excitement in the commons and on our campus. And the residential impact is directly contributing to student success,” he said.
NPC’s concurrent enrollment increased significantly this fall, with 510 students compared with last year’s 406 at this time. This marks a 25.6% increase, in which Fountain Lake, Lake Hamilton and Mountain Pine high schools represented the largest increase in participation. He said support from high school administrators and parents was instrumental at increasing the numbers.
“The parents and school districts are really seeing the value of the program,” he said.
The National Park Technology Center director, Mike Wiles, reported an increase of 27 students this fall at 360, while Bill Allison, vice president for workforce, reported a 58% increase in apprenticeship program enrollment. Community and corporate training programs saw a decrease in number of students at 2,717, compared with 3,220 last fall.
The number of contact hours, however, rose from 29,940 to 33,995. Allison said the workforce is increasing the number of trainings, though fewer employees are attending.
Adult Education saw a 24% increase, serving 368 students, compared with 296 last year. Director Bill Ritter said that because students can enroll at any time, he expects numbers to grow throughout the year. Currently, the program is seeing about 25 to 30 students enroll every week, making for a possible enrollment of 1,000 this year if the trend continues.
NPC President John Hogan said the increase in new student and concurrent enrollment is a predictor of good things to come for the school.
“I think one of the things in the college student count, too, is we have been graduating students faster and transferring them sooner,” he said. “We’ve shortened the time to a degree and I think we’re seeing a little bit of that with some of the student success. We’re encouraged because of the 7% increase in our new students, so we feel good about next year, as well. I think they’re a segue into NPC’s reach.”
Less than half of NPC’s students, he said, are enrolled in credit classes, and he believes this “speaks to the diversity and strength and responsibilities that the college has.”
“Just to give you kind of a picture of what our range is, what our service touches are in the community: the sum total of the groups that we shared today in terms of participation is nearly 7,000. If we average the last few years, it would be well over 7,000 unique individuals that we serve as a college. This year, so far, we’re up 7% in new students, 26% in concurrent enrollment, 58% in apprentice enrollment, and 24% in adult ed,” he said.
There is often a misunderstanding regarding enrollment and what makes up the student population, he said. Largely funded based on college student enrollment, the rest is supported externally through sponsored programs that do not pay much overhead.
“We’re meeting those challenges and we’re trying to innovate new ways to interface with students,” he said. “We’re doubling down on the apprentice programs and looking for different ways to provide opportunities for students, whether those fit into the tight spaces or not, and whether they’re traditional or not.
“NPC’s vision to provide services to almost 7,000 individuals annually through credit and concurrent instruction, the National Park Technology Center, community and corporate training, and adult education is to promote personal enrichment, economic growth, and community engagement. The result is a variety of quality, affordable learning opportunities that create a pathway for transfer or to the workforce.”
Serving 7% of the population in Garland County represents a significant impact, Hogan said, as community colleges typically only serve a need of about 2% from their service area.