West Shore Community College Sees Massive Enrollment Growth

One local community college is seeing big-time growth in enrollment. Now they are trying to figure out the secret to their success.

West Shore Community College in Mason County has been in a long trend of decline when it came to enrollment. That is until this winter, where their numbers took a major leap—somewhat surprisingly.

“We have a lot of really good things happening at this college right now,” says Dr. Mark Kinney, vice-president of academics and student services at West Shore.

Numbers aren’t even final for the semester but already the difference in enrollment was staggering at West Shore.

“We’re looking at about 12% more students than we’ve had last winter at this time,” Kinney says. “As much as 14% more in total credit hours.”

There are many advantages to the community college route, like dual enrolling while in high school.

“You can graduate with an Associates and high school diploma at the same time,” says Adam Fulton, second year student from Mason County Central.

“It’s two years of college,” says Brian Lafata, a student from Free Soil. “At least a reduced rate than any other college or university.”

“Hopefully plan to get my general classes done here,” says Zack Vanderzanden, from Hart. “Then I hope to—I’m still deciding on a college—but hopefully something like Michigan Tech.”

“To get my basic classes just out of the way, it’s easier to just do it here instead of going to a big university and paying more money to do them there,” says Aubrey Raspotnik, from Ludington.

Dr. Kinney says it must be a variety of factors that is leading this growth, but one thing they can rule out: it is not is just overall state wide growth. When he looks at other community colleges in Michigan, 19 of them have seen enrollment go down and the ones that have seen it go up, nobody seems to be over 4%.

“That’s the odd part,” Kinney says. “Just how much we are improving compared to what other community colleges across the state.”

Added programs, renovations and expansions, free tuition for Mason County students, these all add up to a trend they’d like to see continue.

“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure,” Kinney says. “Our philosophy is to just do the right thing for the community and enrollment will follow.”