Gwynedd-Mercy College President Kathy Owens says on-campus residence halls are full, they have expanded the curriculum, and enrollments are strong. “Our enrollment has held steady and even increased. We have added some new academic programs at our undergraduate level. We introduced this year a new program in communications.”
She says one reason enrollments are up is that some people go back to school when they become unemployed or underemployed.
“We’re seeing that in our programs for working adults, and in those programs most of the students are pursuing either a baccalaureate degree or a master’s degree in a business-related field. We also have in our accelerated program the RN to BSN degree completion, so many nurses who never received the baccalaureate degree are returning to school for that program.”
She says all of the returning adult students live off-campus, and most of them are raising families, so the college offers evening and weekend courses at the Main Campus in Lower Gwynedd, as well as other campuses in Center City and East Norriton, and a Bensalem Campus is coming in the fall. She says the courses need to be in locations where the adult learners are. On the downside, she says financial aid is shrinking as congress and state lawmakers struggle with budget cuts, and that includes PHEAA grants.
“That’s an initiative by the state of Pennsylvania to keep Pennsylvania students in Pennsylvania, and as a result of the decline in the economy over the last several years, the amount of money that is given to students has been decreased, so whether they’re coming here or going to our good neighbor, Montgomery County Community College, the state system or state-related, we’re all impacted.”
At the federal level, Doctor Owens says the Pell Grants for the neediest students are being cut back to about the 2008 level, and that’s in last year’s budget. They could face further cuts in this year’s budget.