By Obed Manuel
Opinion and Copy Editor
Oscar Lopez, vice president of student services and enrollment management, can see the West-1 and S Building parking lots from his office. During any given semester, he said, the number of empty parking spaces grows as the winter or summer nears because students drop classes out of fear of failing them.
The Spring 2012 semester has begun.
Overall, the Dallas County Community College District experienced a year-over-year drop in enrollment by a headcount of 2,315. Brookhaven lost 711 students compared to Spring 2011.
Lopez said the drop in enrollment cannot be attributed to one specific reason.
Rodger Bennett, vice president of academic success, echoed that statement.
Bennett said Brookhaven’s administration initially suspected the new meningitis vaccine requirement was the cause, but after looking at several forms of data, they found no single factor caused the drop.
“We can’t know for sure what caused the drop,” Bennett said. “It might be the new meningitis requirement. It might be financial aid. It might be construction. It might even be another school.”
Both Lopez and Bennett said one big factor that may have caused the drop is the opening of North Central Texas College’s Flower Mound campus.
Brookhaven had the largest drop in enrollment for the first few days of classes, but was overtaken by North Lake College Jan. 30, the state’s enrollment certification date. Lopez said considering location, it is possible that whatever affected one campus also affected the other.
Brookhaven’s administration was able to collect data that displayed which areas of the school’s region students were not returning from.
Lopez said from zip codes 75007, 75006 and 75056, all areas Brookhaven is used to servicing, 425 students did not return. That
amounts to more than half the drop in enrollment at Brookhaven.
“We cannot know for certain if these students decided to attend a school closer to their homes this semester,” Lopez said. “What we do know is that NCTC saw an increase in enrollment.”
A representative for NCTC was not available for comment. Bennett said the drop in enrollment is not necessarily going to have a negative impact on the success rate at Brookhaven.
“I think we need to be careful in equating enrollment to success,” Bennett said. While enrollment is a factor in how the school functions because it is how the state determines fund allocation, student success also holds much importance, he added.
Texas distributes funding for higher education according to how many students are enrolled in a particular institution or school district. This, Bennett said, is the most direct concern.
“For the next allocation of funds, we’re going to receive a smaller piece of a pie that gets smaller every year,” Bennett said.
In terms of revenue for courses taught at Brookhaven, with a loss of 153,304 contact credit hours, the school is set to have $6,898,680 less in revenue than during the Spring 2011 term.
“We can’t call every student who didn’t return this semester to find out why they didn’t return,” Lopez said. “But we will obviously look at the information we gather over the following months to see what we did wrong and what we can do better.”