Increased enrollment at Bellevue College

Matthew Reitveld / The Watchdog

Bellevue College is the largest community college in the state, according to a ranking of the 25 largest community and technical colleges by the Puget Sound Business Journal. BC’s fall quarter full time enrollment number in 2015 was 11,654, an increase by 202 compared to 11,452 the previous year. In addition, BC outranks Clark College, the second largest community college by nearly 3,000 students.

Director of academic advising Emily Kolby credits this recruitment success to multiple developments across campus.

“I think there’s a lot of newsworthy things about Bellevue College and I do think that we have a really great reputation. There are more programs that are growing and increasing,” said Kolby.

“Kudos to the marketing team,” noted Kolby about the increased enrollment. “I think that we have a wonderful marketing team and they really put together a wonderful marketing strategy.”

Celebrating its 50th year, BC has seen many changes in recent years such as the opening of a new health sciences building, addition of new bachelor degree programs, discussions of a partnership with Washington State University, plans to open residence halls and the restructuring of student services.

These advancements are some of the things that BC’s Director of Marketing Alonda Williams was advertising during a recent campaign, “People are Talking About Bellevue College.” Soon after Williams took on the director position, she began to push more towards advertising, targeting people who are between 18 and 24 years old and their parents.

“We started a radio campaign, a lot of social media, web advertising and bus ads. I think it piqued people’s interests about the school,” said Williams about the various marketing efforts. “It all focused on all the wonderful, quietly-kept things people didn’t know about Bellevue College like the fact that we have a terrific interior design program or that we have 11 bachelor’s degrees or that we have been recognized as one of the most affordable schools in the country.”

Although an increase in student population is beneficial for the college, it continues to put a strain on student services such as advising, which aims to guide each student through four-year degrees or the transfer process. “We always had fewer advisers than the ideal adviser-student ratio,” said Kolby. Currently, there are only seven advisers.

“This year compared to previous years, it was interesting for me because we run regular new student advising sessions throughout the summer and last year, there were some sessions that weren’t full but every session this year had students signed up to the cap,” explained Kolby. “This summer, we were straight through pretty packed and the schedules right now for advising right now is booked out.”

Kolby, however, believes that her team is functioning as best as they can. “We do what we can and the advising team just pours their heart and soul to every interaction. It always takes a lot of work,” said Kolby. “We have such a wonderful, dedicated team of advisers.”

Williams also acknowledges that the disproportional numbers of students and their resources is a concern. “We had goals associated with the campaign but they were very conservative. I wasn’t really sure what the impacts would be so I didn’t expect it to have a huge impact because I was being conservative,” recalled Williams when starting the marketing campaign.

“Now, it’s about managing growth and that’ll be our challenge,” explained Williams. “The worst thing we want to do is have people come here and not get their needs met.”

BC is expected to continue growing and with new degrees such as a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, more students may enroll to take advantage of the lower tuition and smaller class sizes. As BC continues to develop, Kolby is interested in seeing how the student numbers will shift. “I would be curious in the coming years to see the actual data of students coming in and staying,” remarked Kolby. “I think that there are more options for students which is really exciting.”

However, Williams also believes that the transfer process will still be an attraction of BC. “I think that we will always serve the role of providing amazing transfer students to the bigger schools,” said Williams.

Although according to Williams she has paused her marketing campaign to “let others catch up” to the influx of students, she’ll continue to build BC’s community. All next week, BC will be a host to community events through Homecoming Week, which aims to build high student, faculty and staff engagement. Through the various events, Williams hopes the BC community will interact with their campus.

In addition, Williams plans to use these events to instill pride for the school within members of the college community and to those outside of BC. “We’re here, but we’re also amazing,” remarked Williams.