After years of rapid growth, CWI faces an enrollment drop

For Idaho’s largest community college — and one of the nation’s fastest-growing two-year colleges — the boom is coming to a halt this year.

Fall enrollment is trending downward at the Nampa-based College of Western Idaho. But the numbers could have been much worse. CWI is looking at a 2 percent decrease, compared to initial forecasts of a 15 percent drop, spokesman Ashley Smith said.

CWI’s enrollment exceeded 31,000 in 2019, and even the summer saw an enrollment increase at the Nampa-based college.

The enrollment numbers are critical for Idaho’s two- and four-year schools alike. While community colleges receive funding from a variety of sources, including state tax dollars and local property taxes, tuition and fees are a significant funding source for community colleges. And amidst the coronavirus pandemic, national projections have suggested enrollment could drop by 20 percent or more.

About half of CWI’s classes will have at least some face-to-face component this fall. The college is offering classes over a variety of formats — including face-to-face learning, hybrid and “HyFlex” classes that mix online and face-to-face instruction, online classes that meet at a set time and online classes students can complete on their own schedule.

The state’s four community colleges opened Aug. 24. Based on the early numbers, enrollment is a mixed bag.

College of Southern Idaho: Online registrations are driving an enrollment increase, Ryan Blake of the Twin Falls Times-News reported last week.

Overall, enrollment is up by 6 percent, and total credits are up by 1 percent. “We work to match our staffing and expenses to the number of students we expect to have each semester,” Chris Bragg, the college’s dean of institutional effectiveness, told Blake. “When enrollment lags well behind those budget predictions, it can certainly have a negative impact of our financial stability.”

Fall 2019 enrollment was 7,288.

College of Eastern Idaho: The state’s newest community college is reporting an enrollment increase.

Fall enrollment is 1,498, spokesman Todd Wightman said Tuesday, a 4 percent increase. Numbers should “easily surpass” the 1,500 mark by the end of next week, he said.

North Idaho College: Like CWI, NIC braced for a big enrollment decrease, but it hasn’t materialized.

“While we won’t know the final enrollment numbers for a few weeks, we’re very hopeful,” said Laura Rumpler, the college’s chief communications and government relations officer. “We budgeted and planned for a 9 percent decline in enrollment … (but) right now, we’re only seeing a roughly 4.6 percent decline.”

Fall 2019 enrollment was 5,078.



Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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