Although Central Baptist College had drastic budget cuts and several employees were laid off in September due to a drop in enrollment, Ryan Johnson, vice president for enrollment management, said that the budget reductions haven’t had a direct effect on the student body.
“We’re trying our very best to not have it affect the students,” said Johnson. “The faculty and staff see our students as our children. It’s a family atmosphere here. And just like we as parents don’t want to put any unnecessary burden on our kids, we didn’t want to do that [to our students] as well. Even though we’ve had to reduce some staff, I believe we’ve kept operations up to a good level. We’re trying to increase our level of service to our students even in this challenge.”
According to Rachel Steele, associate vice president of student services, the immediate outcome of the school’s budget reduction was a cut in operational budgets, the layoff of a few employees and the redistribution of responsibilities due to the reduction in staff.
“There’s been a lot of support campuswide to help each other out with the responsibilities that we need to take on,” said Steele.
CBC missed its enrollment projection by 23 students, which created an anticipated $350,000 deficit for the 2018-19 school year, according to President Terry Kimbrow’s September 26 statement in the Baptist Trumpet.
One reason that the enrollment numbers declined is because of the current positive economy and open job market in Arkansas. According to Johnson, the better the market is, the lower the student enrollment will be due to the higher availability of jobs without a degree.
“The market always dictates what’s going to happen with higher education,” said Johnson. “If the economy is not doing well and it’s harder to get a good paying job, or get a job in general, most of the time people are trying to make themselves more marketable…they’re trying to go to school…that’s good for higher education. When the economy is good and everybody has good jobs and a lot of jobs [are] available like we currently do in Arkansas right now…adults that don’t have degrees [will say] ‘Why do I need to go to school? I have a good paying job.’ We’re seeing that trend across the state.”
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a Sept. 24 article confirming the low enrollment trend across Arkansas colleges and universities using information published by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE). The state of Arkansas had a 1.3% total decrease in higher education enrollment. This affected seven of 11 four-year state universities, including the University of Central Arkansas; 15 of 22 two-year colleges, including the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton, and eight of 15 private colleges and universities, including CBC and Hendrix College, in the past year alone.
Johnson said that CBC needs an 85% retention rate for the spring semester in order to avoid the possibility of another budget reduction.
Johnson also said CBC is updating their recruitment plan in hopes to increase future enrollment. One example Johnson gave is the business department’s marketing program’s partnering with Dave Creek Media to increase CBC’s social media presence and get students more involved in recruitment.
Johnson said the CBC website is also being updated, with an anticipated relaunch over summer 2019, and is also being more intentional about updating its blog.
“We’re partnered with the [Carillon] yearbook…and we’re using all of the great content that they had last year,” said Johnson. “Every time I find an alumni, I ask them to [provide content]. I’ve asked
Johnson said that CBC is planning on implementing other ideas to help boost recruitment. More details on these recruitment ideas will be released in January.
Even though the school has had to reduce their budget and staff, Johnson said the budget reduction has caused CBC to be really creative in finding ways to keep offering services to students and to service each department.
“We’re constantly evaluating that,” said Johnson. “We want to always hear from the students. If students have a concern about a certain area or a certain service that they don’t feel like is really doing what they want it to do or feel like it should do, Student Services is the place to [tell us] about it. We’re here for our students so we don’t want to, even in a lean time, ignore our students needs at all.”
Graphic made in Adobe Spark by Caity Baker-Worsley and Jessica Sawyer