(LFC Comment: Here is a hard dose of reality for Lake County residents. A continued decline in enrollment will mean a need to increase the spending of taxpayers’ money to attract more students; this will be offset by the need to increase spending just in case they see a few more students, not to be confused with the need to spend more money to keep more administrators on staff to beg for more students to attend or even stay two years at LCC.)
Here is President Morris Beverage’s history lesson and what the future holds for Lake County and Lakeland Community College – it’s not an optimistic future.
How many remember Art Linkletter? He was a radio and television pioneer in the 1940’s and 50’s. He had a show called “House Party” with different guests each week. One segment of the show involved bringing up children to the stage and asking them questions. This segment became known as “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” The children from that era would become known as baby boomers, a time when the U.S. population grew at rapid rates.
Those days are over, at least in the communities we serve. By and large, the populations in the schools that feed into Lakeland are expected to decline over the next 12 years. Consider for a moment that children who will graduate from high school in 2030, are currently in the first grade.
Based on data provided by the Ohio Department of Education, we track the 17 largest feeder schools into Lakeland. These 17 schools account for over 80 percent of Lakeland’s enrollment each year. In 2016, those 17 school districts graduated 4,586 students. By 2021, graduates are expected to drop to 4,422, dropping again in 2026 to 3,634, and finally to 3,318 in 2030. That’s a total decline of 1,268 students, or a drop of 28 percent.
That’s 28 percent fewer students potentially coming to Lakeland, 28 percent fewer employees being prepared with the skills needed to enter the workforce, and 28 percent fewer young people starting families. This has both social and economic implications for our community. All institutions of higher education are facing the same declining population issue, and the competition for students is only going to get more intense. If we want to keep or elevate our status in the world of higher education, we need to be open to innovation in the way we deliver courses and provide student supports.
Declining enrollments reinforce the importance of collaboration college wide so we are all working together on the moments that matter and the success of our students. It also adds urgency to the need for us to find more and more ways to keep students engaged and graduating. We need to be sure our programs continue to evolve in order to help employed adults find the value in returning to school to improve their odds of staying employed through lean times, be nimble enough to change careers as needed, or get promoted
If our community of the future is to thrive, we MUST meet this challenge head-on.
If not us, then who?
As always, thanks for all you do to impact lives through learning.