Minnesota West is on track for an enrollment increase
COVID-19 meant decreased enrollment last year, but more students have registered for the spring semester than had registered at the same time last year, college officials said.
WORTHINGTON — Minnesota West Community and Technical College is on track to see an increase in enrollment this year, following the decreases COVID-19 prompted last year.
“Last year everybody was down because of COVID, but this year, we are up,” said Rebecca Weber, dean of student services for Minnesota West.
While the college’s enrollment does shift throughout the term, as students sometimes register for the second half of the semester, fall semester enrollment was up 2.2% in mid-November in comparison with enrollment the same week of last year.
Minnesota West tracks its registration numbers using Power BI, a business analytics service.
As of Friday, registration for the spring semester at Minnesota West was up 6.1% compared with registrations at the same time last year, Weber said.
“Our college has really moved along with COVID. We do it with the safety in mind of all our students, of course, but we want to make sure we continue training students and meeting the needs of our industries,” Weber added. “We can’t stop.”
According to the nonprofit National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2021 postsecondary enrollment declined 2.6% overall, with a decline of 3.5% in undergraduate enrollment and of 6% in community college enrollment.
Last year Minnesota West still brought students on-campus, with masking requirements and social distancing as safety provisions. This year, the school is still following a three-foot distancing requirement and maintaining contact tracing, monitoring cases that come up on a daily basis, she said. When COVID turns up, programs can be moved to online, but instruction continues.
Technical education has been on the rise, such as Minnesota West’s powerline and electrical programs. In its second year on the Pipestone campus, the plumbing program has seen enrollment increases, as has the cosmetology program there.
Industry demand is very high for health care workers as well, given the stress on the health care system COVID-19 has caused. However, enrollment in allied health programs such as medical tech, radiation tech, surgical tech and nursing has largely been static, Weber said.
Some Minnesota West programs like diesel technology and welding begin with a spring semester, which begins Jan. 10. Welding programs are available in Jackson and Granite Falls, Weber said, and a new welding instructor will start at the Jackson campus in the spring. Minnesota West does provide transportation to students living in the Worthington area and taking classes in Jackson, she added. The college also offers winter break courses, allowing students to pick up a few credits in a very short period of time.