Running Start enrollment has doubled in two years at Big Bend Community College and now accounts for more than 15 percent of BBCC’s student headcount, according to enrollment numbers posted by the college.
There are 352 Running Start students attending BBCC this winter and 357 attended last fall. That’s more than double the 172 Running Start students at BBCC in winter of 2013.
The Running Start program allows high school juniors and seniors to attend community college tuition-free while they earn high school graduation credits and college credits at the same time. In 2014, 41 BBCC Running Start students earned a high school diploma and an associate degree at BBCC.
College officials think a change in requirements for entering the program contributed to the increase. Students formerly had to place at college level in both math and English to enroll in Running Start. The new requirement allows students passing one of those placement tests to enter the program.
“Some people assumed that a change in class scheduling at Moses Lake High School caused the increase in Running Start students, but that is not necessarily the case,” said Bob Mohrbacher, BBCC Vice President of Instruction and Student Services.
“Increases in Running Start enrollment came from high schools throughout our service district,” he said, “and some of the percentage increases are larger than what we saw from Moses Lake.”
College officials are closely following a recent enrollment trend—headcount is up, and full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment is down. The college depends on FTEs for funding.
The 2015 winter 10th day enrollment report shows an increase in headcount from 2,163 to 2,172, but winter quarter’s FTEs dropped by 42 from 1,560 to 1,518. BBCC’s percentage of full-time students also has dropped significantly in the last two years, from 71.5 percent to 65 percent.
The trend for community colleges statewide is lower enrollments, said BBCC President Terry Leas. Community college enrollments historically increase in times of high unemployment and drop when unemployment is low.