Richmond Community College is no exception to this rule, but is taking steps to address the challenges of signing more people up by streamlining its enrollment process.
RCC Vice President of Student Development John Wester said the driving force behind the moves is “to have better customer service,” and explained a two-pronged plan of attack.
To deal with the traffic of returning students who want to sign up for classes for the semester, the school is employing a new software program called WebAdvisor.
Wester explained WebAdvisor allows returning students to enroll in classes over the Internet, and will give them a better shot at getting the classes they need to graduate.
“An advisor has to release it, so they can enroll in classes,” Wester explained. “But once they’ve released it, students can sit down with the advisor and enroll in their classes over the computer, just like we do now, or they’ll have the option of going on the Internet on their own time and doing it themselves.”
He said this will free up time for advisors and students when students wish to add or drop classes, because it will be an on-going process students are can control.
Up to this point, RCC students have always had to do something like this with an advisor, which means they must find a time during the day when both are not in class and both are still on campus.
Staff and faculty members were receiving training in using the new software Wednesday afternoon at the college. RCC Registrar Wanda Watts was the instructor.
“It’s not really that complicated,” Watts said. “I talked with some of the faculty after the training, and some of them asked me if I thought we’d be able to do this. I told them ‘Of course we will, if you get a little nervous or start having problems just call me.’”
She said the process is definitely new to the faculty, “but I think once they get their hands in it, they’ll see what a wonderful time-saver this will be and how many more services we’ll be able to offer students using it.”
There is a WebAdvisor user’s manual posted on the home page of the college’s Web site for students who have questions, Watts said.
“This is going to increase the customer service for our students by 100 percent,” she continued. “Now, they will constant access to their information, and today’s student really wants to know it yesterday anyway.”
RCC Director of Counseling Sharon Goodman said the students she works with are tech-savvy, and will be able to master this software in no time.
“Once they see their advisors, they’ll be able to register themselves,” she said. “That means they’ll be able to do it from home, or wherever they want to. I think this is something they will definitely embrace.”
New students who are already admitted to the college will have the opportunity to come register on November 12 and 18, and December 2, well before the open registration days on January 5 and 6.
“We’ll be sending a card out to those students to let them know they can register on those days,” Wester said. “Students will be able to choose which classes they want to take, talk to the financial aid people and get everything they need done to go to school on those days.”
He pointed out incoming students will also have the option of paying their tuition between November 30 and December 9.
In order to be admitted to the school, RCC must have an application, placement testing and student transcripts on file.
“We encourage everyone to come see us earlier rather than later,” Wester said. “That way, they have a better chance at getting the classes they want, because obviously, the people who come in early and sign up first will have first preference, then the classes will begin to fill up.”
An October 14 press release entitled “N.C. Community Colleges Experience Unprecedented Growth” from the community college system stated enrollment statewide was up over 20,000 in the Fall of 2009-10 from the Fall of 2008-09.
It said the state’s 58 community colleges are “funded for only 216,500 full-time students, but have welcomed at least 236,500 since the beginning of the semester.”
“Community college enrollment and economic conditions share a counter-cyclical relationship: When the economy takes a downturn, enrollment numbers jump up,” the release reads.
RCC saw more than 10 percent growth from last fall to this one.
Watts said enrollment numbers totaled 1,772 students in the 2008-09 Fall semester, while 1,970 signed up for Fall semester 2009-10.
n Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.