After a 10 percent dip in the number of fee-paying, full-time-equivalent students over the past three years, Daytona Beach Community College has thus far seen a 9.3 percent increase in fall enrollment from a year ago and a 7.9 percent projected overall increase from 2005-6 – the largest spike of any Florida two-year institution.
Frank Lombardo, Daytona's academic vice president, said the college's increased fee collection this term is no accident. It is, he said, the product of a major outreach campaign to students -- with some employees this summer wearing “May I Help You?" pins and directing students to their classrooms.
“There was continuous communication from the day when a student showed interest in enrolling to the day that classes started,” Lombardo said. “When students applied, we contacted them. We called them and made sure they got financial aid. During the first week of (summer) classes, administrators and staff greeted students in the parking lots. We met every morning on the academic side to talk about enrollment trends.”
In this case, financial incentives -- but not to students -- seemed to be a motivating factor.
During the last academic year, Daytona's Board of Trustees agreed on a plan that would tie employee raises to enrollment figures. The deal was that if enrollment by September 1 remained flat from a year ago, college employees -- from the president to the custodial staff -- would receive a 2 percent raise come October 1. A 2 percent or more enrollment spike would mean a four percent raise. Because enrollment figures exceeded that mark, trustees and administrators agreed to give everyone an average of a 5 percent raise -- with ranges from 4.1 to 6.6 percent based on salary range. The raises are on top of promotions, faculty rank changes or market salary adjustments, said Rand Spiwak, the college's executive vice president.
Spiwak said the initiative was so successful that the college intends to stay on the fall raise cycle, after enrollment totals are in, instead of the previous summer evaluation cycle. Daytona Beach also plans to provide additional salary boosts across the board if the retention rate rises from where it was a year ago -- about 85 percent of students who stayed enrolled from fall to spring. He said trustees and administrators are working out the benchmarks.
Some have expressed concern about the ethics of linking faculty pay to student enrollment or retention, saying it is unfair to judge one's performance based on often uncontrollable circumstances. Others have questioned the legality of the setup, since the federal government bars colleges from paying admissions officers or enrollment counselors based on how many students they woo.
Spiwak said there are no legal issues, because raises were given across the board and no one was awarded a "finder's fee" or commission. He added that he isn't worried about grade inflation from faculty who want to keep students happy and enrolled in order to keep their raises coming. The college is planning on tracking students throughout their next few terms to see if their performance matches their grades, Spiwak said.
Mercedes Clement, head librarian at the college, said employees she has spoken to have been "quite happy” with the results of the initiative. “You cannot get money if you don’t produce money," she said.
Lombardo said the college has hired about a dozen additional faculty members to accommodate the increase in students this fall. Some classes that were scheduled for 30 students were enrolled at about 60 -- partly, he said, because the college accommodated students who wanted to take classes that were already filled. Some of those classes will be split into two sections, he said.