CALAIS, ME – Fall enrollment is the highest it has ever been at Washington County Community College (WCCC). Enrollment numbers are up 36 percent compared to this time last year, and the number of students attending credit-bearing courses at WCCC has more than doubled since the Fall of 2020, in the depth of the pandemic. The enrollment increase is attributed to many factors, including a new admissions model with additional advising support for students, academic program improvements, increased short-term workforce trainings, the Free College Scholarship for recent high school graduates, and the start of varsity athletics.
Total headcount this fall is 685 students, up from 505 students last year, according to the official tally on October 15. First-time student enrollment is up 52 percent over last year. In addition to a double-digit increase in headcount and new students, WCCC has a 44 percent increase in credit hours sold, meaning more students are taking more classes. Twenty-two percent of the total headcount is comprised of dual and concurrent enrollment of high school students, and 20 percent are students taking advantage of short-term trainings offering college credit.
As part of the guided pathways approach and overall strategic enrollment management plan at the college, a new admissions model was implemented starting in March, 2023 that allows students quicker acceptance and direct support from a New Student Success Specialist. All incoming students, who apply for WCCC programs, are now provided with one-on-one advising sessions and an individualized success plan as part of their onboarding process. Over 300 incoming students met with the New Student Success Specialist leading up to this Fall semester, and 86 percent of them submitted all requirements and attended their program courses. This is a sharp improvement to prior years where the yield rate was closer to 50 percent of students who applied for admission to the college. “Our increased yield rate is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire staff at WCCC, especially as more students enrolled this semester than ever before at the college”, said Tyler Stoldt, Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Services.
WCCC continues to use feedback through our program advisory groups to improve program curriculum to ensure our programs meet the ever-changing needs of the communities and industry partners we serve. For example, we recently improved our Engine Specialist Program, and it is now Diesel and Automotive Engine Overhaul. The change involved curriculum updates and the new name better reflects what students learn by completing the one-year certificate program. Another example of curriculum improvements to meet industry needs is new simulation equipment recently added to programs, such as the Toyota Prius being used to provide instruction on maintenance and repair of hybrid and electric vehicles in our Automotive Technology program.
The college started a Health Occupations Certificate program last Fall to provide students with general education courses and specific advising related to healthcare pathways. The program has double digit enrollment, with 21 students attending this semester. WCCC is also currently in the planning and approval process for a nursing program through additional state and private funding and hired two nursing instructors for the program anticipated to begin in September of 2024.
Funding from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, Maine Quality Centers, and the Harold Alfond Foundation allowed the Division of Workforce Development to proactively broaden the reach of short-term training courses offered. The aim is to establish a clear pathway for these students to transition into certificate and degree programs, such as Business Management, Production Technology, and Human Services. One short-term training example that was particularly successful is the Mental Health Rehabilitation Technician-Community (MHRT-C) training which prepares students to sit for the State of Maine MHRT-C Certification. This credential is required of behavioral health case managers and residential workers across the state. Nearly 900 unique students enrolled in short-term workforce trainings offered through the college since the Fall 2020 semester, and 13 percent of those students were either previously matriculated and returned for a workforce training to enhance their skills, concurrently enrolled in both degree-seeking courses and workforce credit offerings, or directly matriculated into a program after completing a workforce credit course. For a full list of current short-term trainings offered through WCCC, click here.
More than half of our degree-seeking students enrolled this fall (57 percent) are eligible for the Free College Scholarship because they graduated from high school or earned a Hi-SET diploma between 2020-2023. The Free College Scholarship was originally funded with a one-time $20 million state allocation and was recently extended for the graduating classes of 2024 and 2025. Interested in college but don’t qualify for the Free College Scholarship? Earning a certificate or degree at WCCC is still affordable. The average cost of tuition and fees at WCCC is $3,600 for a full-time student a year, the lowest in New England. Federal financial aid is also available for those who qualify. You can learn more about the admissions and financial aid process, schedule a campus visit, or apply for free online here.
While many students are taking advantage of the flexibility of online and virtual courses offered through WCCC, the start of varsity athletics also increased in-person enrollment and student engagement for the Fall semester. This is the first semester that WCCC Men’s Basketball was approved as an exploratory program through the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and twenty-four student athletes from across the United States are attending courses at WCCC. In addition, a Women’s Basketball club team was formed this year with plans to expand it to a varsity team next year. The number of students choosing to live on-campus in student housing is the highest in over a decade and 65 percent of our degree-seeking students are taking at least one in-person course, while 35 percent are enrolled as completely virtual students. For a full list of our programs of study, including those available through distance education, click here.