Many concerned over the administration of Hocking College amid recent controversy point to declines in staffing and enrollment, which they attribute to mismanagement.
One place these concerns arise is “4 the LOVE of Hocking College,” a private Facebook group comprising more than 100 current and former college employees organizing to overhaul the current college administration, including by ousting President Betty Young. The group recently backed a stalled effort to overhaul the Hocking College board.
We obtained data from the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the U.S. Department of Education to see if the group members’ assertions about declining enrollment, graduation and staffing are true. What we found: While Ohio community colleges as a whole have suffered losses in many categories, those losses have been greater at Hocking College than for the sector as a whole. Some of these trends started before Young’s administration, but she has not reversed it—and in some cases, the trends accelerated under her leadership.
College enrollment is measured in two ways.
- Headcount, or total enrollment: The total number of students signed up for and taking classes in a given academic period.
- Full-time equivalent enrollment: For undergraduates, the total number of credit hours taken by all students divided by 30.
Total enrollment at Hocking College declined substantially between 2010 and 2020—by more than 48%, according to data available through the Ohio Department of Higher Education. The decline began before Young’s tenure. When Young became president of Hocking College, total enrollment stood at 3,945; in 2021, it was 3,198.
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Data on full time equivalent enrollment paints a different picture, however.
FTE enrollment at Hocking College peaked in 2011 at 5,222. Since then, it’s dropped by 60%, to 2,083 in 2021. Over the same period, FTE enrollment at Ohio’s community colleges dropped by 24%.
When Young became president, FTE enrollment stood at 4,114. However, Hocking’s FTE enrollment declined another 49% between 2014 and 2021, compared to a decline of only 9% for Ohio community colleges overall.
One reason full-time equivalent enrollment has declined far more sharply than total enrollment is that total enrollment has been buoyed by the number of high school students enrolled through the College Credit Plus program.
Since Young became president, the number of first-time college students declined from 1,211 to only 495, and the number of returning college students fell from 2,195 to 1,482 — a net loss of 1,429 students.
However, CC Plus enrollment more than tripled between 2016 and 2017 alone, jumping from 481 to 1,663 students — representing more than 46% of all Hocking students that year.
Attraction and retention
Ohio funds public community colleges, such as Hocking College, based on performance. Half of funding is linked to course completions. The other half is split between “completion milestones” and “success points.” The first group includes the number of students who earn associate degrees and certificates requiring more than 30 credit hours. “Success points” include numbers of students who earn 15 and 30 credit hours.
So, to maximize their share of state funding, community colleges must attract and retain first-time, full-time degree-seeking students. State data on retention and graduation are based on this group.
Hocking has always outperformed Ohio community colleges as a whole in attracting such students, but Young’s administration has performed spectacularly: On average, 80% of first-year Hocking students between 2015 and 2020 fell into this category.
Keeping those students, though, is another matter. While re-enrollments of first-time, full-time degree-seekers have trended upward for Ohio’s community colleges overall since 2014, they slid at Hocking. Half or less of those students came back to Hocking for their second year.
Hocking College’s staffing levels have declined substantially under Young’s tenure as well.
When Young took over in 2014, 45.66% of the faculty were employed full time. That percentage fell to only 14% in 2017. Though the percentage rebounded to 45% by 2021, the actual number of full-time faculty still stood at only slightly over half the number in 2014. Hocking College employed 82 full-time and 100 part-time employees in 2021, compared to 158 full-time and 188 part-time employees in 2014.
Over the same period, faculty employment remained stable across the sector as a whole. In 2014, community colleges in Ohio employed 10,327 faculty members. In 2021, the sector employed 10,076.
Young inherited a $4.4 million deficit, which the college says contributed to staffing cuts.
Young said layoffs and the elimination of programs are “all decisions that have to be made in the interests of an institution.”
Reflecting the college’s greater reliance on part time faculty in recent years, the number of courses taught by full time faculty fell from 70% in 2013 to only 19% in 2017. This is a key indicator of institutional quality.
Hocking College did not report data on courses taught by full time faculty in 2018, the most recent year in which data was reported by the ODHE. Therefore, trends in the graph above do not account for the slight uptick of full time faculty members since 2017 alongside the concurrent, continued decline in full time equivalent enrollment.
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