Some local colleges experience decline in spring enrollment; one N.C. college enrollment soars amid pandemic

Grand Strand

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — National and state studies indicate the number of people enrolling in colleges is declining during the pandemic.

That trend is felt at some Eastern Carolinas institutions.

“We’re 6,000 strong,” said Melissa Batten, vice president of student affairs at Horry Georgetown Technical College (HGTC). “Our decline was about 350 students from what we had last spring. I will say when we look back on our fall trends, we fared better than the system average, between 16 colleges, our numbers were better than the average numbers and certainly were better than national numbers.”

Batten says she believes this is the case because they cut some costs for potential students, like application fees. HGTC also did away with placement exams. 

One resource HGTC previously had on campus but expanded is the Tech Central.

“We’ve pushed in every kind of support service a student may need; admissions, financial aid, advising,” Batten said. “It’s really one place where a student can come and get all the help they need.”

Batten says in addition to this HGTC has expanded some course offerings to accommodate more student schedules.

“We have a term that begins this coming Wednesday on March 3,” she explained. “If students are considering Horry Georgetown, they can start now. We have courses that are shorter than a typical semester.”

Batten says while the pandemic has posed financial challenges to most, it has opened more scholarship opportunities.

“There has never been a better time to come to college,” Batten said. “There is a great deal of state and federal aid available. I would encourage anyone who is looking at options and looking at the future to not let finances be the reason for not doing that.”

While HGTC reports a slight drop in enrollment, University of North Carolina at Pembroke reports a growth in its number of students.

“We had record-breaking enrollment in the fall, the fall of 2020 and again in the spring experienced overall in new student enrollment a 30% increase spring to spring,” Jodi Phelps, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke said. “In total our enrollment growth has been 9%, so we’ve experienced really incredible growth particularly this spring.”

Phelps says the state program NC Promise has helped more people afford, and in-turn enroll in college.

“One of the biggest factors in our enrollment growth has been NC Promise,” she said. “What NC Promise does is it lowers the cost of tuition for students both in-state and out-of-state to $500 or $2,500 a semester. There is no qualification. All you have to do is get admitted.”

At Coastal Carolina University, enrollment numbers have steadily declined the past three spring semesters. In 2019, 9,617 students were enrolled at CCU in the spring. In 2020, 9,449 students were enrolled at CCU in the spring. That number dropped about 300 to 9,164 students in the spring of 2021.

Francis Marion University in Florence reports the number of students enrolled there has remained steady during the pandemic.

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