DOWAGIAC — The school year hasn’t started yet, but Southwestern Michigan College officials are anticipating fall enrollment to be stable and not decline, as it is at other community colleges around the state.
President David Mathews told SMC board members this week that the college is at 99.1 percent of its fall enrollment goal, with 1,906 students registered as of Monday. He said the college had budgeted for enrollment to stay the same as last fall, when 1,922 students had registered two weeks before the start of classes.
“Enrollment represents around $10 million of our $24 million budget,” Mathews said. “We always say that as the fall goes, so goes the year. We’re still bucking a huge demographic trend, we’re in year nine or 10 of a 20 year decline in high school graduation. … We set a goal of enrollment being flat. Enrollment statewide is down 3.5 percent.”
He credited a number of college programs for helping buck the demographic trend, such as summer orientation programs which bring new high school graduates into the campus as well as reach out to dual enrollment high school students.
Mathews also gave the board good news about the college’s recent refinancing of the 2009 general obligation bonds used to build the college’s Jerdon Hall residential dorm. The board had approved the refinancing of $6.3 million of the $7.5 million borrowed at a special meeting in July.
Mathews told the board that the bond sale went better than expected last week with interest rates lower than anticipated. He said the college will save $1.4 million over the next 21 years with the refinancing, or around $68,000 a year.
“This provides us with even more of a cushion to keep our rates competitive and replace items as we need to,” he said.
He noted that the college’s venture into residential housing has not only paid for itself, but also brought in over $800,000 extra to pay for other projects such as recent capital improvements on the Niles Area Campus. He added that SMC is starting to get more summer dorm residents, with 100 deciding to live on campus this summer.
In other financial news, he said the college’s credit rating remains good. He said that while Moody’s has reiterated its negative outlook for the higher education sector, Standard & Poor has reiterated SMC as having a stable AA rating.
Mathews also reported on personnel changes at the college. Dr. Melissa Kennedy has been named the dean of Nursing and Health Services, succeeding Rebecca Jellison, who retired this summer. Kennedy is a SMC graduate and has been back at the college for eight years, teaching pharmacology and medical/surgical classes.
Mark Hollandsworth has been named the new band director and Sam Walker the new graphic design instructor. They succeed Jon Korzun and Bill Rothwell, respectively. Korzun was the band director for 28 years and Rothwell the graphic design instructor for 20 years.