Published July 22, 2021
Dodge City Community College (DC3) continues to work diligently to provide improved quality and workforce-relevant education to its students. Just as recent changes were implemented, the coronavirus pandemic hit the world. DC3 has managed to grow and create new opportunities and award-winning programs, attracting more and more students to campus, despite this challenge.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center stated, “Higher education enrollment fell to new lows this spring, showing the persistent impact of COVID-19 related disruptions. Overall spring enrollment fell to 16.9 million from 17.5 million, marking a one-year decline of 3.5% or 603,000 students, seven times worse than the decline a year earlier. While every institution sector saw undergraduate enrollment dip this spring, community colleges remain hardest hit (-9.5% or 476,000 fewer students). Over 65% of the total undergraduate enrollment losses occurred in the community college sector.”
Much of the last year at DC3 focused on crisis management and the response to COVID-19 as well as answers to address enrollment challenges in response to the pandemic.
DC3 transitioned to an increasingly virtual environment while maintaining the opportunity for face-to-face classes. Recognizing that higher education doesn’t always mean sitting in a classroom, online learning opportunities have soared using a new learning management system called Canvas, under the direction of Assistant Vice President of Online and Outreach Learning, Dr. Jodi Rust. A new campus-wide computer system makes online enrollment and online payments possible for incoming students.
Additionally, DC3 has continued to increase the availability of Dual/Concurrent courses for high school students. DC3 Dual/Concurrent credit is a partnership with area high schools to help their students get a jump start on their college careers. Kansas High School students are not charged tuition, incidental, technology, or lab fees for any Excel in Career Technical Education classes in which they are enrolled.
The college revisited the approach to educating and supporting students, including a better understanding of the importance of tailoring experiences to differing needs of current and prospective students. This created a more personal and customer-service oriented approach to recruitment of new students, offering a personal experience from point of application to graduation.
Melanie Smith, DC3 Director of Advising, said, “DCCC Admissions, Financial Aid, and Student Affairs teams are committed to providing and growing daily in striving to provide excellent customer service and in showing each individual student the depth of care our personnel has for them.”
“Fall enrollment is currently up 41% from this time last year, with our total part-time and full-time headcount at 1,247 students,” stated Director of Admissions & Student Life, Brittany Penno. “We, of course, expect those increasing numbers to slow down at some point, but our goal is to educate over 1,600 students throughout the region in 2021-22. This would ultimately increase enrollment by 9% over the course of one year.”
DC3 focused on community discussions with area employers in 2020 to better understand the workforce needs of Southwest Kansas. This resulted in the creation of several new programs, including Climate and Energy Control Technologies (HVAC), Electrical Technology, and Computer Science. Classes within the workforce programs will start in the fall of 2021 with higher than expected enrollments in many of the program concentrations. Current 2021-22 enrollment numbers, showing all new students, in some of the Technology programs include: Climate and Energy – 22 students; Electrical Technology – 15 students; Diesel Technology – 21 students; Welding – 30 students; and Cosmetology – 18 full-time students and 26 part-time students.
Understanding the expectations of staff and faculty regarding compensation and benefits and the connection to increased productivity, the DC3 Board of Trustees worked diligently to provide a stable financial environment for DC3’s employees, especially in regards to pandemic-level challenges. First, the Board provided health insurance premium assistance for 3 months (April, May, and June) to all enrolled employees. The DC3 Board of Trustees and Faculty negotiated a 3-year contract instead of a 1-year contract, including a guaranteed payroll increase each of those three years. The DC3 Board of Trustees also approved a 3% increase in salary for all non-faculty staff for the 2021-22 fiscal year effective July 1, 2021.
In addition to the creation of better programs, revamped enrollment processes, and staff and faculty compensation, the college has another reason to celebrate. On July 20, 2021, Dr. Mechele Hailey, Dean of Nursing and Allied Health, received notification from PracticalNursing.org that the DC3 Practical Nursing program has received the ranking of #1 Ranked Practical Nursing Program in Kansas for 2021 (https://www.practicalnursing.org/lpn-programs/kansas/#top).
“Nursing programs were assessed on several factors which represent how well a program supports students towards licensure and beyond,” said Carly Jacobs with PracticalNursing.org. “We analyzed past and present first time NCLEX-PN ‘pass rates’ – weighted by year.” PracticalNursing.org has been publishing annual rankings lists since 2014.
The Federal government has provided financial assistance to college students throughout the country through programs related to the American Rescue Plan. The most recent program, Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III, is now available at Dodge City Community College. Please see www.dc3.edu/admissions/financial-aid-scholarships/dc3-cares-act for more information.
Director of Foundation and Community Relations, Christina Haselhorst shared, “While enrollment numbers look really amazing right now, we are cognizant of the fact that we, as well as our students, are still recovering from the effects of a major pandemic.” She added, “Donor support of our Foundation is an important cog in the wheel of this recovery effort. With this support, the Foundation can provide critical funding to DC3 with the influx of students in the upcoming year. Never before has our hashtag, #TogetherWeCONQuer, been more relevant to DC3.”
Opportunities for donations to the DC3 Foundation include: a golf tournament on August 20, 2021, annual auction on November 6, 2021, online giving, magazine publication mail-in giving, AmazonSmile (a year-round giving program through online retailer Amazon), estate planning opportunities, and program/project support. For more information on the DC3 Foundation, see www.dc3.edu/foundation-alumni or by calling (620) 225-9541.
Interested students should contact the DC3 Admissions department to schedule a campus visit at www.dc3.edu/admissions/visit-campus or by calling (620) 225-1321. For high school students interested in participating in Dual/Concurrent education classes, please see the high school counselor or contact the DC3 Director of Dual/Concurrent Credit, Gayla Rodenbur, at (620) 227-9232.
By Christina HaselhorstDC3 Director of Foundation & Community Relations