By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer
[Update on January 24, 2018: The first meeting of the focus group on Enrollment Management and Retention has been scheduled for Monday, February 26, at 3:30 p.m. in ʻIliahi 123. Contact Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brenda Ivelisse at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in joining.]
As secretary of Student Congress and as a peer mentor for the Hoʻokele Student Success and Lunalilo Scholarship Program, second-year Liberal Arts major Zane Williams has recognized the steady decrease in KCC’s student enrollment between the fall and spring semesters. According to the Institutional Research & Analysis Office, KCC had 7,382 students enrolled during Fall 2016 and experienced a drop in Spring 2017 with 6,700 students.
Recognizing this decrease primarily through the First-Year Experience (FYE) Program and its New Student Orientations (NSOs), the 21-year-old understood that a change would need to take place to turn around the student enrollment number.
It was during a Student Congress meeting on Nov. 7 that Brenda Ivelisse, the vice chancellor for Student Affairs, approached its attendees to raise awareness of a focus group on Enrollment Management and Retention that she was looking to create on campus. With the goal of using students’ voice to improve the number of incoming freshmen and develop ways to keep students on campus, Williams immediately expressed interest in joining.
As a team effort that generated within the administration, Ivelisse looks to put together a focus group in February or March of Spring 2018 of about 20 students from various backgrounds, ages, working situations, financial circumstances, and more. Participating students would be asked to attend a 1- to 2-hour session once a month to discuss their experiences with KCC, regardless of whether they are memorable ones or negative.
“We want to make sure we listen to our students and hear what they have to say as far as what are some of the things that we could do to change and be more proactive when it comes to getting our students not only to enroll but to persist and then complete [college],” Ivelisse said in an interview in late December, explaining that pinpointing the effects of student experiences on campus can benefit the institution to better support its students.
Ivelisse shared that KCC typically loses about 300 students from the spring to fall semesters annually. During Fall 2017, 7,095 students were enrolled with an increase of about 7 percent in new students from Spring 2017. As of January 16, 6,784 students were recorded as enrolled for Spring 2018.
Recognizing that the campus has yet to reach the peak that it once held of more than 8,000 students during 2011 and 2012, Ivelisse is hopeful that the focus group will create interesting results that can produce effective ways to keep students on campus. Students who are interested in becoming a part of the focus group can contact Ivelisse at email@example.com.
As the first student to share an interest in the focus group, Williams, who is Samoan-German, said that he comes from a low-income family. Having attended KCC since Fall 2016, the Kalihi native found that keeping up with finances to stay in school has been challenging, believing that it could not be done without the help of scholarships.
“[I] definitely needed help with money; money is the main concern for first-year students sometimes,” Williams said. “That’s one thing that I’m going to try and help out with this focus group because … all the money stuff is just a lot of stress for the students.”
In the meantime, Williams has generated a few ideas that he believes can help students with financial struggles. Creating a group of people that can help students with scholarships is what he feels could benefit the campus tremendously, adding that he would have been unaware of the Lunalilo Scholarship program if it were not for word of mouth between friends.
In terms of the campus as a whole, Williams has felt the lack of a deep connection between students, faculty, and staff regarding personal and financial struggles. Aware that Title IX policies to protect students from discrimination and sexual harassment exists on campus and that homelessness may affect certain students, Williams said that emails may not be enough to inform students of these situations, especially if a student may be personally experiencing these challenges. From this, promoting a club that would address student concerns is an aspect that he would like to see on campus.
Williams believes that the friendliness of the people of KCC has been enough to keep him on campus. Amazed at how hands-on KCC can be with its educational programs, Williams said that the campus’ persuasiveness and expressive support can drive students to attend KCC. While the development of the focus group is still underway, Williams hopes that his voice along with others will make an improvement in student enrollment and encourage students to speak up.
“If you have the chance, then take the chance,” Williams said. “You don’t want to live life the same … you want things to change for the better. Come to the focus group, voice your opinion, and carry it out. Somethings can’t be changed, obviously, but it doesn’t hurt to find out.”