Posted at 2:30 p.m., Dec. 8, 2015

Enrollment potentially affected by revenue decrease

The enrollment rate for Laramie County Community College could increase due to the three-year projection of Wyoming’s state funding, according to the president and vice president of Academic Affairs of the college.

Although the state is expected to lose about $600 million in revenue over the next three fiscal years, the college could gain from people who leave the workforce to become trained and certified in their careers of choice.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Terry Harper said decreased state funding could boost enrollment rates because of the “inverse relationship” in regard “to how the economy is doing versus college enrollment.”

In an economic downturn that leads to an unemployment increase, LCCC President Dr. Joe Schaffer said, “generally, enrollment will rise.”

Schaffer said he is skeptical about an enrollment increase from the downturn in state funding largely because of the diversity of the local economy, but “if it does, it may be a couple of years down the road,” he said.

Schaffer attributed the loss of state funds to how cheap Wyoming’s natural resources are trading for on the market.

“If you sell a barrel of Wyoming crude oil,” Schaffer said, “a portion of that tax goes to the state. Well, when a barrel of oil is trading at $80, $90, $100… the percentage of tax money is greater.”

But this year, the price of Wyoming crude oil per barrel has decreased to as little as $35.33, according to the Independent Statistics and Analysis of the U.S Energy Information Administration.

However, because of Laramie County’s diverse economy, Schaffer says the loss will be easier to sustain. When the economy is down, colleges will see a boost in enrollment and vice versa as the economy improves, Schaffer and Harper agreed.

The college provides programs to help students financially. Some of these are merit-based scholarships that require applicants to maintain good grades. However, most scholarships are created for students who have unmet needs, like the Progress Grant. Schaffer said he feels better now that scholarships are not primarily focused on merit. This is LCCC’s way of saying, “How can we help you,” Harper said.

LCCC’s A.C.T. Now! Career Training holds condensed, fast-paced classes in technical, automotive and nursing programs that require less time to complete and earn a certificate, Harper said.

A.C.T. Now! courses are as short as one week to one semester and include non-credit training on construction safety and health to entry-level workers as well as four-credit courses where students explore industry equipment and examine various water and gas systems.

The enrollment benchmarks at LCCC are structured through the state on a base line of enrollment back in 2004-05, Harper said. There were 6,047 students enrolled back in 2004-05, and 6,682 students enrolled in 2014-15.

In the span of 10 years, more students are enrolling, which means LCCC will need extra funding from the state.

“Because the enrollment funding model is based on 2004-05, we’re not seeing an increase coming from the state,” Harper said.

To get more money from the state, the college can make a request to the Wyoming Community College Commission for a “recalibration of the base enrollment period” to change the enrollment benchmark to the 2013-14 academic school year and recalibrate it every four years to have the most accurate data possible, Harper said. It’s adjusting state-allocated funds based on the increase of enrollment and cost, she said.

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