Western Nevada College seeks boost in enrollment, student success
If You Go
What: Western Nevada College forums featuring three applicants for chief enrollment and student success officer
When: Thursday, April 18, noon to 3 p.m.
Where: Reynolds Building, Room 103, Western Nevada College, 201 W. College Parkway
Three candidates for a major position at Western Nevada College will interview in a public forum this week.
The candidates are the finalists from more than 40 applicants for the job of chief enrollment and student success officer, a reinvention of the dean of students.
“We want to make sure we have feedback from stakeholders and the campus community. We want to make sure they’re a good fit for us,” said WNC President Vincent Solis, who joined the college nine months ago.
The job entails recruiting students and retaining them, particularly in the first year when navigating college is new and sometimes overwhelming.
The redefinition of the position is one of several things WNC is working on to boost enrollment after a decade of declines.
In 2010, enrollment was 5,658 individual students and in 2018 enrollment stood at 3,379.
Solis said it’s a national trend at community colleges and not unique to WNC.
“We do better in a bad economy,” said Solis.
In a good economy, he said potential students opt to work instead, including students over 25 years old.
“The number missing the most are adult learners,” said Solis.
The drop is exacerbated by the fact WNC serves a rural community — Carson City, Douglas County, Fallon, Fernley, and Yerington — where graduating high school students tend to go right to work if jobs are available, he said.
WNC hopes to have the chief enrollment and student success officer in place for the fall semester, when the school plans to launch several other initiatives aimed at student satisfaction.
“Our goal is to get a student to campus and get them through their first year,” said Solis. “A key part to addressing enrollment is to work with students where they live.”
By that, Solis means online and through technology.
By the fall, the school plans to implement a platform that allows it to communicate with students via text messaging to blast out information to the entire student body or to a single student who now prefers texting to email.
The school is also revamping its web site to focus on its top 10 programs.
And in the fall it’s launching a podcast featuring WNC professors that will be available on Facebook and YouTube.
“We are proud of our faculty. We want to highlight their expertise,” said Solis.
Those changes join some existing efforts that are already working to attract students, said Solis. One program allows veterans to transfer as much as 45 credits from their experience in the military to earn a 60-credit basic degree they can use to enter a four-year college.
“They only need five classes,” if they carry over the maximum, said Solis. “We do have one student in Fallon who transferred all 45 credits.”
The school also has a program for prisoners consisting of 29 students at Northern Nevada Correctional Center and 41 students at Warm Springs Correctional Center. WNC’s welding certificate program has been particularly successful there, said Solis, because workers are in such high demand many employers are willing to give ex-convicts a chance.
“We’re hoping to add at least 30 more students,” he said.
Nevada’s Promise program, which helps students pay for college, is in its second year. WNC has 44 students in the program returning and 214 new applications.
Solis is also continuing WNC’s efforts to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community, specifically speaking with parents in Spanish to promote the school with their bilingual children.
“Parental involvement is a great tool,” said Solis.
And the school already has some momentum to push its new plans. Solis said applications to attend WNC are up 35 percent, from 700 applications at this time last year to 1,016 applications currently.