Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone has everything but enough students to use it: Enrollment levels must increase to avoid cuts next year

By Barry Shatzman, Staff writer

Saturday, August 13 , 2005—Reprinted from The Argus.

Fremont—Ohlone College continues to win awards, build partnerships, create new ways of learning and expand its international presence, yet there remains one daunting problem staring the school right in the face.

It needs more students.

That was the message college President Doug Treadway delivered Friday in his State of the College address, kicking off the school's fall semester, which starts on Monday.

Treadway reeled off a long list of accomplishments, including Ohlone's in the Bay Area Biotech Consortium, winner of the U.S. Department of Labor's 2005 Recognition of Excellence Award.

Ohlone also started designing learning strategies, paid for by a five-year federal grant. One of those strategies—"learning communities"—already is paying dividends, Treadway said.

In learning communities, up to 30 students take interrelated classes as a role as the lead educational institution group. Coordinating the classes adds relevance to the material being taught, and the students support each other with everything from study groups to baby-sitting. By using the learning community model, attrition in the college's nursing program—which had been a problem partly due to its lottery admission system—has been reduced, Treadway said. Ohlone's nursing program this year also became the only one at a Bay Area community college to be fully accredited nationally.

Despite its accomplishments, the college is facing the prospect of a smaller budget next year because fewer students are attending Ohlone than did two years ago. The fall semester so far is seeing the same numbers as last year's fall semester, which had dropped from 2003. If enrollment this year doesn't come up to the 2003 level, Ohlone could end up with less money from the state—meaning possible staff cuts.

Interestingly, enrollment of area high school graduates is up 40 percent. But a statewide fee increase last year and a lower unemployment rate have combined to reduce the number of adults taking one or two classes at the college, Treadway said.

"Every community college is facing the same problem. It's a systemic thing," he said.

Treadway outlined steps Ohlone is taking to attract the needed students. The college is offering more Internet and summer classes, and is working to make it easier for students to register for classes—including returning students who now have to reapply for admission even though they already are in the school's database. And a proposed partnership will Alliant International University, which would allow students to complete a bachelor's degree at the college, could add as many as 500 full-time students to the rolls, Treadway said.

Ohlone also will conduct a marketing survey to learn more about what the community wants from its college. "We can go against the trend. … By the end of spring, we will close the gap," he said.

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