Poor student retention has led to a decline in enrollment over the last few years.
To remedy this problem, MCCC plans to make the campus more student friendly.
While the enrollment decline appears to have leveled off, there remains a need for student-centered efforts to help retain students.
“The challenge is those who start and then do what? Leave,” said Kojo Quartey, president of the college.
Enrollment decline leveling off.
The problem with enrollment is not new student recruitment, Quartey said, but rather retaining students who come to the college in the first place.
“The number one variable for retention purposes at any institution is that students believe that people there know them, and care about them,” he said.
Making sure students are comfortable and cared for is vital for retaining them and for student success, Quartey said.
To demonstrate this to students, Quartey practices something he calls the ten-foot rule.
“So when I say hello to students, by abiding by that ten-foot rule, which means when you pass within ten feet of anyone, you what? You acknowledge that person, say hello,” Quartey said.
“I practice that. I hope everyone on campus will practice that. I wish I could institute that as a rule.”
To help students feel cared for, Quartey also expressed a desire to start up a mentorship program.
“We want to have a mentor program, also. Where students have somebody they can view or see as a role model, and if those students are encountering any challenges at all on campus, besides the adviser, they can go to that person,” he said.
“That ties in with the feeling that somebody there knows me, and somebody there cares about me.”
However, the college has not always succeeded with similar plans in the past.
Near the back entrance of the school is the Student Government spirit rock; the intent was for students to paint or write on it for various reasons.
Unfortunately, most people don’t even realize it’s there.
Many colleges and high schools have spirit rocks, said English professor Timothy Dillon, and they’re generally used for things like painting school colors or showing support for sports teams.
“It’s a pet kind of thing, a school spirit kind of thing,” Dillon said. “When they said here that we’re going to have one, I thought ‘oh what a great idea,’ but when they put it in the far south corner of the campus, down by the creek where nobody ever goes, I thought ‘well that’s just crazy.’ ”
Dillon is not alone in this criticism, as Quartey agreed about the rock’s unfortunate placement.
“I think that it should be in a more prominent area,” he said. “But I don’t think that’s a battle that I need to be fighting. If the students really think it should be in a more prominent area, then they can make it known to the administration and individuals on campus.”
While there’s talk about improving the campus in the future, at the moment, things aren’t ideal.
“We have some of the components of student success,” Dillon said. “Students having a place to go, students having study areas to go, things like this, those are non-existent on our campus, and until we get those kinds of things we don’t have the whole package."
Dillon suggested having a student rest area on campus to show that the college appreciates its students.
“There’s a couple ways you identify what’s important, you name it, and you give it physical space,” Dillon said. “So if students are important, we should have an area, a central area, a place that’s just for students to do what students want to do, and we identify that student centered space and that gives it importance.”
Quartey agrees that not all the buildings are well designed for studying or for students to relax in.
“You go in the life science building, that’s the L building over there, and students are essentially studying under the stairs.”
However to create more student centered spaces Quartey insists that the funds from the millage are essential.
Some of these proposed renovations include joining the east and west technology buildings together, and using the extra space to create a student center.
Head of maintenance Jack Burns explained some of the potential renovations that may be happening to not only create a student area, but to expand the learning assistance lab as well.
“So the primary focus of the renovation is we’re going to take and combine east and west tech into one building,” Burns said.
“We’re actually going to take and combine them and create an open atrium very similar to what is at the CTC but in between them, and there’ll be furniture in there. When I talk about student breakout spaces kind of things, there will be a study lounge area, but the LAL will be off of that area and we’ll actually be able to take some existing classrooms and double, more than double the space that the LAL has.”
The east and west tech buildings are only one of the renovations planned, and the college is considering renovating the library to make it more modern, said Burns.
“So we’ve investigated a number of case studies, the one we looked at locally is Grand Valley State. They just did a huge addition/renovation to the library and now they have a lot of like student breakout spaces, where you can actually get in groups with flat panel tv’s you can plug your laptops in and do group study sessions,” said Burns.
“We’re in and experiencing that transition, those growing pains. So when I say updates to the learning environment, that kind of thing. We need to address new learning styles.”
However the status of these student centered renovations is dependent on the millage, said Burns, as updates to the school’s infrastructure and security comes first. Those are updates that must be done, regardless of the fate of the millage.