Joe Schaffer file

Laramie County Community College President Joe Schaffer speaks to faculty members during his State of the College speech Aug. 20, 2018, at LCCC. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – Preliminary reports as of two weeks prior to the start of the upcoming fall semester show a headcount increase in first-time freshman and high school students at Laramie County Community College compared to the same time last year.

LCCC President Joe Schaffer discussed enrollment trends during his annual State of the College address Wednesday at the Clay Pathfinder Building.

According to the reports from the LCCC Institutional Research Office, 453 first-time students have enrolled as of two weeks prior to the start of the semester, an increase from the 392 new students who enrolled by the same time a year ago.

That’s also an increase from 2017, when 346 new students enrolled for fall classes two weeks prior to the semester.

“That’s 100 more in a two-year period,” Schaffer said. “That’s worth celebrating.”

The reports also show that 120 high school students have enrolled for fall classes, an increase from last year, when 82 students enrolled, and 2017, when 108 students enrolled.

“High school students is an area that we’ve seen substantial growth,” he said. “Much of this growth is driven by the good work at Laramie High School to the Albany County Campus.”

That’s an area where the college will continue to grow, Schaffer said.

“When we look at growing dual and concurring (enrollment) students, we have to look at it with the lens of how we get them into courses that advance them to a credential, not just how we let them take courses for college credit,” he said. “That’s why we’ve been somewhat resistant to just trying to grow new enrollment at all costs.”

Fewer transfer students have enrolled for fall classes – 116, a decrease from the previous year, when 128 students enrolled, but higher than 2017, when 111 transfer students enrolled.

A headcount of continuing students enrolling in fall classes decreased to 1,447 from 1,546 last year and 1,856 in 2017.

But that’s not necessarily a bad statistic, Schaffer said.

He said the college is losing some continuing students who are dropping out and not returning to school. But he also said the college is enrolling fewer students in developmental education, meaning courses designed for students who might not be ready yet for post-secondary courses, and that results in the student earning a credential or degree sooner.

That’s a positive, he said, but it does “impact our enrollment substantially.”

“We’re producing more credentials in a more timely fashion,” he said.

Enrollment figures will likely change as the new semester starts this month.

Schaffer said the college has the opportunity to engage with more high school graduates in the immediate future. According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the number of high school graduates in Wyoming is expected to increase through 2025, then begin a decrease.

At that peak year, Wyoming will produce about 7,000 high school graduates, about 1,300 more graduates than today. About 50% of high school graduates enroll in college the next fall.

Community colleges will enroll about 64% of high school graduates going to college. LCCC likely gets about 20% of those college students, Schaffer said.

Renovations and new buildings

Schaffer also gave an update on building projects on both the Laramie County and Albany County campuses.

Groundbreaking for renovations to the Fine Arts Building in Cheyenne will start Friday. The project includes renovations to 22,000 square feet of educational space and infrastructure upgrades.

Schaffer said they hope to complete renovations for the $15.5 million project by July 2020, with construction of the new 300- to 400-seat Surbrugg-Prentice Auditorium scheduled for completion in December 2020.

A $1.3 million classroom expansion at LCCC’s Albany County Campus, which includes two classrooms on the ends of each wing of the existing building, is scheduled for completion in September.

Construction on a $33 million, 350-bed residence hall at the Cheyenne campus is targeted for completion in August 2020, although Schaffer said that timeline could change.

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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