RCC pushes for more students as numbers lag

ASHEBORO — Enrollment at Randolph Community College isn’t likely to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels right away despite a school official pointing out unprecedented financial incentives for potential students.

Chad Williams, vice president for student services at RCC, said a decline in high school students in dual enrollment has been the biggest reason for a dip.

“Overall, we’re still seeing a decline in enrollment comparing to previous years prior to the pandemic,” Williams said. “I don’t know if we’ll get to numbers we’ve seen in previous fall semesters. … We’re reaching out to every student we can in every way we can.”

A fall semester at the two-year school in Asheboro would often have 2,600 to 3,000 students enrolled. At the beginning of this week, that number stood at about 1,900 with about a month to go before those classes start.

Williams said there’s an effort to bolster enrollment. He cited the RCC Commitment Grant, a program designed as a funding mechanism to fill the gap that’s not covered by federal or state aid to students.

“There has never been a better opportunity to attend RCC and not have to worry about how to pay for it,” RCC president Dr. Robert Shackleford Jr. said. “We meet students exactly where they are and help them go as far as they can possibly go.”

Beginning with the fall semester, qualifying full-time students will be eligible for up to $1,000 per semester.

That makes attending RCC the most enticing from a financial standpoint in the 16 years Williams has been at the school, he said. He previously worked in RCC’s financial aid office.

“There’s never a better time to go back to college,” he said.

For the current summer session, there’s enrollment of 915. That’s off slightly from the usual number that ranges up to 1,000, Williams said.

Traditional enrollment numbers have flattened, but it’s the number of high school students in programs designed for dual enrollment that has dropped,

“We’re just not seeing the level of engagement that we had seen,” Williams said.

RCC held a one-week break earlier this month amid the summer semester, which began May 24 and concludes July 26. Late registration for the fall semester runs through Aug. 10, with classes beginning Aug. 16.

Still dealing with adjustments made because of the coronavirus pandemic, not all 2021 fall semester classes will be in person. Some will use a hybrid model with a mixture of face-to-faces sessions and virtual sessions. Many classes provide students with options on how to attend and participate, Williams said.

By Bob Sutton

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