Behind the Numbers: MC Falling Enrollment Figures Have Little to Do with COVID; Bright Spots Exist

MC’s enrollment is most closely tied to high-school graduation numbers in the county


Montgomery college’s fall-semester enrollment has fallen for eight straight years, but the falling number of students has comparatively little to do with the effects of coronavirus and more to do with larger demographic trends in Montgomery County.

That is the opinion of John Hamman, Chief Analytics and Insights Officer at MC, whose job it is to analyze MC enrollment statistics—a process which has significant importance for the annual budget for the college—and project future enrollment trends.

In addition, Hamman said, there are reasons to be optimistic about projected enrollment trends, and the college is showing durability in enrollment numbers in the face of an unprecedented situation.

“Five years ago, we predicted we’d be down enrollment this fall,” Hamman said, and underscored the fact that Covid has not made the college’s enrollment figures deviate greatly from the figures that the Analytics and Insights head expected: “We were not wildly away from what we were expecting this fall.”

The important “first time ever in college” demographic, which consists of students most likely to continue studying at MC for several years, appears to make up 76% of MC enrollment, which is a decline of only 4% from the typical amount. Hamman believes that these students make up a solid basis for sustained MC enrollment.

Demographic Shifts in MoCo Affecting the College

Hamman stressed that MC enrollment is closely tied to the demographic makeup of the county it serves, and that the changes in those demographics have affected enrollment at MC: “Montgomery County certainly doesn’t look like it did twenty years ago.”
In particular, an aging population with fewer young families in the county than previously has led to falling high-school graduation numbers in the county: the largest source of students for MC.

Hamman stated that high-school enrollment is likely to start increasing again in around five years. This expected increase would also cause MC enrollment to increase as well.

Enrollment Has Consequences for Budget—Years Ahead

Though the overall MC operating budget is ultimately determined by college enrollment, there is a delay built into the budgeting process: state funding for the college is based on the enrollment figures from at least two years earlier.
Hamman stressed the need for colleges to be adaptable and to move with the times and believes that MC is in a strong position coming out of Covid.

“Those who can react and be agile and flexible will come out ahead,” he said.