By: Teresa Sarkela –
A big part of Rocky Mountain College’s charm is the small-campus dynamic. While many have been able to reap benefits from the small student population, the news of not reaching projected enrollment rates has caused a stir of concern among some students. While enrollment rates did not reach as high as projected, retention rates (the percentage of first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue at Rocky the next year) dialed in at around 90 percent for this Spring semester. This was more than a two percent increase over last year, according to Dean of Students Brad Nason. This means the college’s current retention rate is seeing a positive trend in maintaining student population through the Fall to Spring semester transition and, correlatively, has reflectived a positive trend in graduation rates.
The current total number of enrolled undergraduate students at RMC rests at just below 900. The most recent class to be enrolled was anticipated to reach 315, while actual enrolled students reached 285. This has brought to the college many challenges and opportunities for development. “We hope to increase to 1,100 students by 2020,” said Nason. The goal of an additional 200 students is also hoped to make an impact on student activity involvement. “More people means more community,” said Nason.
RMC Chaplain and GSA Advisor Kim Woeste commented that while fewer in numbers, students at Rocky are far more active. “There are a small number of students and lots of leadership opportunities,” said Woeste, “and if we aren’t careful, a handful of students end up doing everything that needs to be done.” Holly Todd, senior and President of the Debate team, expressed similar thoughts, “I have seen students heavily overbook themselves,” said Todd. “I don’t know if this has to do with student enrollment or the personalities of the people.”
Like some leaders of student clubs and teams, Todd also expressed concern of financial support for student activities. “From a team standpoint, having a smaller student population can be beneficial. Even though a team’s numbers may increase, it doesn’t mean that the funding the team receives will increase.” While the Associated Senate of Rocky Mountain College (ASRMC) allocates funds to student groups as efficiently as possible, those like the RMC Debate Society, Slapshots, and Enactus also turn to individual fundraising to gain additional financial support. For some, this leads to difficulties in retaining members and interest.
To address this concern, Nason explained that any effect student enrollment has on distribution is only a minor percentage in an otherwise well-off budget as allotted by ASRMC. To put it in perspective with current enrollment, Nason explained that the decrease “would be roughly $4,000 out of a $150,000 budget.” According to Nason, students need not worry about current enrollment and retention rates on their tuition or activity opportunities.
Though recently graduating the class of 2013, one of the largest RMC has had, the current student population has not deterred from maintaining academic and standards and leadership advancement. As Woeste summarized, “At Rocky, I think there really is a focus on that value-added experience, smaller numbers mean more individual attention. For me, I think I focus more on individuals now – empowering individual leaders, meeting individual needs, facilitating individual programs.” As RMC continues to explore options for increasing enrollment rates, the college will continue its mission of higher learning and educational transformation with the small but mighty population of students who attend it.