Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Student Flow Analysis for a Community College

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Student Flow Analysis for a Community College

Article excerpt

The authors describe an innovative technique for using Classification and Regression Tree (CART) with student characteristics, including geographical data for analyzing student enrollment patterns between students who enroll within a community college district (stayers) and those who enroll outside the district (movers) at neighboring community colleges. This article describes a method for conducting a student now analysis and demonstrates the method with an actual analysis at Gavilan College in Gilroy California. This is a useful tool for research and planning professionals involved in enrollment management and marketing for community colleges at the program or discipline level.

Introduction

Community colleges actively pursue enrollment planning in order to succeed in a changing environment (Seidman, 1995; Hossler, 1986). This is especially important in California in an age when enrollment level drives a community college's funding. As a result of this fiscal link to enrollment, a community college may discover a critical need to compete with other providers of postsecondary education to draw sufficient numbers of students to its campus. If a community college cannot draw enough students, it may begin to lose its ability to maintain its breadth of educational services and staffing. In California's ?? 2 segment, the effects of declining enrollment in some places have even manifested in plans to close educational facilities, creating many concerns (Lapkoff&Gobalet,2004).

As an important part of enrollment planning and the institution's strategic planning, community colleges, like other postsecondary institutions, must learn about the market they serve (Becker, 1990; Keller, 1983; Mudie, 1978; Turner, 1978; Larkin, 1979). This learning essentially involves the practice of market research, although higher education usually classifies the market research function as "institutional research." The concept of marketing has historically troubled experts in higher education (Litten, 1980). Regardless of the title used, a community college can move forward in its market research if it can analyze the geographical dimension of its market. The geographical dimension of a market has been a basic consideration in market analysis in the private sector (Kotier, 2003; Lehmann & Winer, 2002; Peter & Donnelly, 2000; Mintzberg & Quinn, 1992) and community colleges can leverage this model to their advantage. Some community colleges have also tried this path (Northern Virginia Community College, 2002). Given the localized nature of their enrollments, in comparison to most four-year institutions, the geographic dimension clearly carries more weight in the community college environment than in the four-year sector (Rowley & Sherman, 2001).

Like many business enterprises, a community college typically has a market area - a region that it serves. In California, community colleges have designated physical boundaries referred to as the community college district. But California's Master Plan diminished the meaning of district boundaries when its provision for open enrollment became law. In effect, community colleges in California could legally enroll students who reside in another community college district. In other words, a college may import students (i.e., students flow in from another district) , and it may export students (i.e., students flow out to another district). The concept of student flow analysis, as covered in this article, focuses upon the nature of exports for a community college. That is, does a community college district "lose" some of "its" residents by "sending" them to another community college?

In this article, it is assumed that a community college would prefer to import students rather than export them, given the usual gains in funding that accrue with higher enrollments. However, if a community college lacked the capacity to serve the number of students who wished to enroll there, it is conceivable that this institution would prefer to export some of these students. …

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