Germanna Community College sees enrollment increase during pandemic
While most colleges across the nation are seeing sharp enrollment declines related to the pandemic, Germanna Community College’s enrollment is climbing. GCC enrollment is up 4.24 percent for the fall compared to the same date in 2019. Germanna officials say they began bucking the national trend with a 25 percent surge in summer enrollment. Part of the increase in enrollment may have to do with the fact that GCC announced earlier than most schools that it had decided to go online.
As some universities around the country are closing campuses sending students home, Germanna has announced that it will continue online through the spring semester of 2021. “We’re sad not to be back on campus,” Germanna President Janet Gullickson said. “We miss each other, our students and our communities. However, Germanna has anticipated this necessity and is thoroughly prepared to continue our excellence. In fact, our fall enrollment is up.”
Gullickson said that Germanna has had a strong distance learning program for 15 years. When the 2011 earthquake closed GCC’s main building at the Fredericksburg Campus in Spotsylvania for a year, necessity became the mother of invention in terms of accelerating the development of distance learning offerings. She said that earthquake experience is serving Germanna well in the current environment: “We know how to do this,” she said. “We’re not having to try to figure out how to do it on the fly. We’ve been doing it successfully for a long time.”
Germanna has been getting calls about upcoming fall semester sessions from students who have been accepted to universities, then saw the universities close their campuses. The cost of tuition at Germanna is typically one-third that of a state four-year institution, and in national media reports, students and parents across the country have expressed reluctance to pay high tuition for online classes without the full university on-campus experience. Locally, some are coming to Germanna to save money on the online classes, then transfer the credits to universities when things return to normal.
Even classes that had always been held in-person are now available via the Internet a. As Dr. Shawn Shields, professor of chemistry, co-chair of the Germanna Science Department, and co-chair of the curriculum committee, told the Orange County Review earlier that all chemistry courses are now online with video and tutorial components. She explained that most labs will be online, but a small component of hands-on work in “socially distanced labs” will be offered to transfer students.