Garrett College led all Maryland community colleges in first-day-of-classes fall enrollment, according to a statewide report disseminated last week.
GC reported 662 students enrolled as of September 6th, the opening day of classes, which represents a 33 percent increase over opening-day enrollment in fall 2022. Those 662 students were scheduled for a total of 230 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) credit hours, a 26 percent increase over last fall.
One FTE equates to 30 credit hours.
Frederick Community College reported the next-highest growth, increasing 15.1 percent in headcount and 14.3 percent in FTE. Harford Community College was third in headcount growth, up 13.8 percent, while Hagerstown Community College’s 14.1 percent increase in FTE was third-best in the state.
“It’s both exciting and challenging to see this kind of incredible enrollment growth since last fall,” said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College’s president. “It’s exciting because we’ve regained nearly all of the enrollment lost to COVID over the past three years, and challenging because it’s put a real strain on resources.”
Midcap said faculty are taking course overloads to help meet the need, with some faculty teaching as many as 21 credits this fall. He said staff workload has also increased in recruiting, advising, scheduling, billing, and reviewing financial aid documentation for all the students.
Christa Bowser, chief academic officer, and Dr. JR Kerns, chief student affairs officer, echoed Midcap’s comments.
“Seeing this many students on campus is wonderful!” said Bowser. “The faculty have been very accommodating and gone above and beyond. As we have added more classes, they graciously increased their teaching loads. They definitely put the academic needs of our students first.”
“It’s a testament to all the hard work the Garrett College staff puts forth,” said Kerns. “Some of these student services departments are only a couple of people deep, and they still provide the same services that bigger institutions with much larger staffs provide.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am to work with and beside these folks,” added Kerns.
Dallas Ouellette, dean of business and finance, noted behind-the-scenes support areas such as information technology, business office, and facilities staff have also seen an increased workload.
“The support areas are excited to see the increase in students across campus,” said Ouellette. “They are continuing to support these students and the College’s faculty in the most efficient ways possible.”
Garrett is experiencing growth in every student category the College tracks: full-time (+19.7 percent), part-time (+55.6 percent), first-time (+30 percent), returning (+6.7 percent), high school dual enrolled (+73 percent), male (+32 percent), and female (+34.1 percent).
Midcap noted Garrett College is educating the increasing number of students as economically as possible.
“When COVID hit, we decreased our in-county tuition rate by about 10 percent,” said Midcap. “And we’ve kept it frozen at that rate ever since. There aren’t many colleges that can say that.”
The 662 students are the most at GC since the fall of 2016. The 230 FTEs and the 155 residence hall students are both the most since the fall of 2019.
“Our student development staff and our athletic coaches did a great job with housing move-in,” noted Midcap, who said move-in was accomplished on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of Labor Day Weekend.
The College also has 145 student-athletes enrolled, which is about a 50 percent increase over last year. The addition of women’s soccer, as well as increasing numbers in the women’s volleyball and softball programs, have played a big role in that increase. Baseball has also seen a huge increase, with more than 50 baseball players enrolled.
“It’s wonderful to see the revival we’re seeing in women’s sports,” said Co-Athletics Director Elizabeth Show, noting two of the three women’s teams – soccer and softball – will soon be sharing a new turf field with the baseball program.
Midcap also praised the College’s marketing staff for the role it played in the strong fall enrollment.
“They developed a strong marketing plan that took advantage of many channels – social media, traditional media, direct mail, etc.,” said Midcap. “I think that campaign clearly resonated with our prospective students.”