FARMINGTON — San Juan College students have completed fewer credit hours in the last two years than expected and school officials are hoping an effort to increase the student retention rate will help reverse that trend.

Although enrollment numbers have increased over the same period, Senior Director of Enrollment Management Jon Betz said state funding is based on completed credit hours.

Enrollment for the current spring semester was 8,674 students, Betz said. The number of students enrolled for the same week in 2012 was 8,548.

But current spring semester credit hours are 67,027 compared to 67,733 for the same week last year, he said.

"If you had students taking 1,000 credit hours but they only complete 900, we only get funded for 900," Betz said. "Basically we are up 1.5 percent in head count and down 1 percent in student credit hours (compared to last year)."

Betz said it is possible the decline was linked to a slowly improving national economy.

"It's really hard for us at this institute to pinpoint why those things happen," Betz said. "We're going to attribute this to the economy. The economy is picking up a little and students are taking a few less credit hours."

The college bases its growth projections on an annual 2-percent increase in credit hours, which it has not met in the last two school years. The 2010-2011 school year saw a 1.57 percent increase in credit hours while the 2011-2012 school year had a 1.76 percent increase.


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Betz said the college saw an increase in 2008 as the recession started to take effect, causing enrollment and student credit hours to rise above projections.

But as the economy recovers, the growth in credit hours has been slowing down.

The 2009-2010 school year saw the biggest increase in credit hours in the last four years with a nearly 11.7-percent increase. The 2008-2009 school year came in second with a nearly 7.8-percent increase.

Betz said the numbers are part of a national trend.

"Generally speaking, I've seen declines nationally of 3 to 7 percent (in credit hours)," he said.

San Juan College is a community college, Betz said, and about 35 percent of students are full-time with the remaining 65 percent being part-time or less.

"We are not a four-year institute, most of our students are part time and have jobs, families and other obligations," Betz said. "Our hope is our improved retention program will help meet our projections."

An office of retention was formed to help departments meet the 2-percent goal. By making retention more of an focus, Betz said, it will help the college meet its growth projections.

"We're doing more recruiting and trying to work on our marketing," Betz said. "We have all these wheels or cogs turning and one of them alone isn't going to make a difference. They all need to work together."