Rising Grand Rapids Community College enrollment translates to GV growth

GRCC. Courtesy / MLive

GRCC. Courtesy / MLive

James Kilborn

A local community college within west Michigan has seen a sharp enrollment increase from Grand Rapids Public School (GRPS) graduates. Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) had 116 GRPS graduates enrolled in 2017 compared to 152 students this academic semester — a 31 percent increase. The number of GRPS high-school students enrolled in dual-credit programs at GRCC has also grown since 2016, with 239 students dual-credit students enrolled this semester compared to 121 students in 2016.

These increases in enrollment have implications for Grand Valley State University, as many GRCC students eventually transfer to GVSU by satisfying the requirements of the Michigan Transfer Agreement. The agreement allows core courses across many Michigan institutions to be transferable to other universities within the state, making it more convenient for students to pursue a degree by enrolling in community college classes, then transferring to a four-year institution. 

As GVSU’s overall enrollment continues to grow, the number of GRCC graduates transferring to GVSU has increased as well. Associate Vice President and Director of Admissions Jody Chycinski said that this uptick in enrollment can be attributed to the two schools working together to make the transfer process less arduous for prospective students. 

“We do work closely with staff at GRCC to make the transfer process as seamless as possible for community college students,” Chycinski said. “This fall, we had 430 students transfer from GRCC to GVSU. In fall 2017, that number was 431 and in fall of 2016 the number of students that transferred to GVSU from GRCC was 405.”

Another factor in this enrollment growth is collaboration with GRCC in hosting events aimed at encouraging low-income or first-generation students to pursue higher education. Associate Director of Transfer and Orientation Admissions Bonnie Ulmer-DeGraves sees this as a component of encouraging students often from GRPS to consider enrolling in either GRCC or GVSU. 

“GVSU works closely with GRCC as well as other community colleges to bring transfer students to campus,” Ulmer-DeGraves said. “We co-sponsor several programs with GRCC, such as TRIO visit days, financial aid workshops and pre-professional days.”

These increases in both GRPS and GRCC graduates enrolling in GRCC courses and illustrates a number of young adults pursuing higher education within the greater Grand Rapids area. Enrollment between the two schools is over 38,000 students, a sizable portion of the regional population. Although many students come from high schools and other community colleges within west Michigan, GVSU recruits students from school districts all across the Midwest. 

“GVSU recruits high school students from the entire state,” Chycinski said. “We also recruit in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.”

These practices coupled with the recruitment from local high schools and close coordination with community colleges such as GRCC ensures that GVSU has a student body composed of individuals from different backgrounds. GRCC’s close work with GRPS in encouraging students to pursue higher education works with GVSU’s goals of increasing opportunities for students within the community. These investments in recruiting from local schools enables students to plan for the future, allowing them to graduate high school and attend these local institutions in order to obtain a degree and enter the workforce.