Decline in College enrolment tied to tuition changes, Covid
A recent article in The Royal Gazette alluded to a ten-year decline in enrolment at Bermuda College, as reported in its annual report. And while this is true, it failed to make the direct correlation between enrolment and free/discounted tuition that the College offered during this span of time.
As the college tuition increased, its enrolment decreased. Between 2008 and 2010 when tuition was free, academic enrolment peaked at 1,300 students. When free and discounted tuition ended, enrolment averaged 662, and fell to 576 in 2021.
The article referenced a quote from the President that was made in the context of the entire report and not specific to enrolment. The actual quote referencing enrolment stated “not unexpectedly, student enrolment in the academic divisions experienced a decline of 16 per cent from the previous year.
However, this was comfortably offset by a 76 per cent increase in registrations in the PACE Division as residents availed themselves of short-online professional development courses and programmes in anticipation of an economic recovery”.
When Covid arrived on our shores, the College anticipated a decline in enrolment due to the move to remote learning and a change in many families’ economic situation.
However, due to the imposed travel restrictions, and dormitory closures, some students registered at overseas institutions decided to attend BC in 2020 and study remotely.
Thus, instead of a decline in enrolment, BC experienced a slight increase. As these students returned to their “home” institutions in 2021, we again anticipated a decline in enrolment based on what was occurring worldwide in higher education, and as we continued remote learning.
So, Covid impacted our numbers both positively and negatively. The article pertained to our 2021 data, but it should be noted that our current enrolment in the academic divisions is 602.
As was shared in the Report, the College has been incorporating recruitment and marketing strategies to attract the non-traditional student as a result of the declining birthrate. As a result, there has been an increase in annual PACE registrations since 2017. We would add that new traditional student markets are also being pursued.
The article also referred to declining satisfaction. This was cherry-picking reporting at its best, since the article failed to include Mr Riley’s explanation that these graduates would be the first cohort that would have spent at least one year in remote learning as an unintended consequence of the pandemic.
Further, even though the satisfaction rate was at 69 per cent, 80 per cent of respondents said they would recommend Bermuda College to others.
Finally, in respect to the Parent Survey, assessing parent expectations and perceptions, one of the reasons BC chose to go through the accreditation process which it received in 2010 by the New England Commission on Higher Education (the same agency which accredits Harvard University, Yale University and M.I.T, several other liberal arts, and outstanding community colleges in New England), was to help dispel the myth that BC does not offer a quality education.
The College scored 69 per cent on accreditation; hence, the message is getting out that we are accredited, but it appears that we still have some work to do to address those who don’t believe that we provide quality education. Sixty-one (61) per cent had sent or would send their child to Bermuda College, and of the 35 per cent who wouldn’t, 57 per cent wouldn’t because they felt it didn’t offer the “full college experience”.
Further analysis of the data indicates that families with households earning less than $72,000 per year (83 per cent), and parents with a high school education or less (83 per cent), whose children are currently in public school (81 per cent), and who are Black (75 per cent), are more likely to send their child to BC.
While parents who are white (20 per cent), whose children are currently in private school (23 per cent), and earn more than $108,000 (34 per cent) are least likely to send their child to BC.
I hope this serves to clarify and add balance to the reporter’s story.
EVELYN JAMES BARNETT
Director of Communications