Sinclair enrollment down? Rocket scientists can’t figure it out.

Two things that the jedi masters at Sinclair and in the County Administration Building haven’t figured out:

  • Sprawl makes it harder to bring people togther.
  • Deregulation gives people more choices- at first.

So, because we’ve let sprawl run amok, the effective costs of going to Sinclair rise with higher gas prices. And, when you let Clark State build a building right across from WSU- you will lose some students. Not only that, when you start wasting time and energy pursuing a new campus in Warren County- you stop focusing on delivering top quality to the people who brung you to the dance- the people of Montgomery County.

So, this is an “I told you so” article:

Sinclair reports 4.5 percent drop in downtown students
DAYTON — Sinclair Community College is analyzing a slow slide in its enrollment as declining population in Montgomery County and the city of Dayton appears to be draining its downtown Dayton campus.

A preliminary headcount on Tuesday shows a 4.5 percent drop for the college’s Dayton campus compared to fall last year, said Robert Johnson, senior vice president for Sinclair.

While a new campus in Warren County and two learning centers elsewhere in Montgomery County have added students, the downtown campus drop overshadowed that growth, bringing total headcount down 1.7 percent overall, Johnson said.

Sinclair will not officially report specific headcounts until Sept. 19, but shared the estimates at a board of trustees meeting Tuesday.

Sinclair’s headcount in fall 2006 was 22,786 students, of which 15,128 attended the downtown campus.

“We’ve been sliding since 2003,” Johnson said. “Part of the problem is demographics, and part of it is local economics.”

Sinclair has seen “conspicuous” decreases among in-county, part-time, female and evening students and students ages 20-29, according to Johnson’s 2007-08 strategic plan released to trustees Tuesday.

The enrollment drop creates a challenge for the college, trustees said, given that Gov. Ted Strickland and Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut have asked Sinclair and other Ohio colleges to grow enrollment by 30 percent in the next 10 years.

The mandate is part of Strickland’s effort to increase the number of Ohioans pursuing four-year degrees.

“We have some serious threats out there,” said Ethel Washington-Harris, Sinclair trustee and chair of the subcommittee that reviewed the enrollment report.

Competition from Springfield-based Clark State University’s new campus in Beavercreek, which opens this fall, may draw some of Sinclair’s 2,300 students who commute from Greene County, the report said.

Sinclair plans to study the drops, and will create an aggressive strategic plan to grow enrollment by 3 percent or about 700 students each year, Johnson said.

After years of growth, despite horrible marketing (the “starting here” thing suggests it’s not a serious place of higher learning- sort of like a “starter marriage”) and relying on its low per-credit cost- Sinclair is now facing the reality: when there are other options, their value isn’t readily accepted.

Had the college concentrated on better communications, better utilization of facilities, working with mass transit options to move students to and from campus instead of building new buildings- enrollment wouldn’t be dropping. Had Sinclair actively worked to allow Dayton DMA residents- instead of only Montgomery County residents- attend at the in-county rate, the Clark State threat wouldn’t have happened.

What would a high-speed rail line from Middletown done to increase enrollment? And workforce mobility? Compared to building a new campus?

We need to think bigger and more holistically if we want to grow our community resources and social capital.

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