SMC enrolls 1,800 students for fall 2020

DOWAGIAC — The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees heard last Monday night from President Dr. Joe Odenwald that fall enrollment finished at 1,800 students — 88 students better than budgeted.

In his August President’s Report, after SMC closed the gap from 833 students June 5 to 1,533, Odenwald predicted winding up between 1,650 and 1,700 by the time classes started Sept. 8. The college also received some good news that aid from the State of Michigan could be restored to the previous fiscal year level after a recent cut of $830,000, which would allow for a surplus to apply to the budget stabilization fund.

“I’d like to be able to tell the HLC (Higher Learning Commission) next April (during accreditation reaffirmation) that we’ve increased our reserves because we’ve recognized how fragile the overall economy is right now, we’ve cut spending and we’ve not laid anyone off,” Odenwald said. “I’m optimistic we can pull that off.”

Odenwald noted for the board that unlike the situation many universities are facing, SMC has seen just four positive coronavirus cases since Aug. 31 — three students and one staff member.

Odenwald also previewed for the board the Oct. 26 long-range planning meeting postponed in March. The administration will present the board with a three-year strategic plan, including the proposal of two new allied health programs. The plan overlaps SMC’s accreditation reaffirmation, and Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming is 75 percent done writing an evaluation of SMC’s strengths and weaknesses in preparation for the April 2021 visit.

Odenwald said the planning discussion will also center on specific enrollment targets. He met with deans to review growth areas so course sections can be scheduled while being mindful of access, quality and efficiency. He expects the college to go from nine online sections this fall to about 30 next spring.

Odenwald reported that Zoom interviews begin this week with a half dozen candidates for SMC’s cross country coach. He advised trustees that since the college expects to hear from the National Junior College Athletic Association with its decision about rejoining the NJCAA just prior to the strategic planning session, perhaps a formal announcement could coincide with it.

After the hour-long meeting in the David C. Briegel Building on the Dowagiac campus, trustees recorded messages for inclusion in Friday’s virtual employee recognition ceremony.

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