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As shown in an earlier post, TSTC Waco’s annual, unduplicated student headcount has dropped over 45% since FY 2009, and this blog is busily drilling down into the components of that drop to try and figure out what’s happening over there. Today, we’ll look at first-time, full-time enrollment and how that number has performed since 2009.  Click on the image below to enlarge a screen shot of a query I made at the Texas Higher Education Accountability website:

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-2013

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-2013

Just looking at the numbers, it’s apparent almost everybody lost at least a little bit, but the Lamar Institute of Technology and Texas State Technical College Waco both lost a pretty big chunk going from 2009 to 2013. (Since LIT’s annual, unduplicated headcount AND its fall semester technical student count have remained fairly steady over time in comparison to TSTC Waco, I’m not going to give LIT’s big, first-time, full-time student drop much attention in this particular post.) Lamar state College-Port Arthur lost 3.9% of this demographic, Lamar State college-Orange dropped 8.5%, and TSTC Marshall lost 8.6% of its first-time, full-time students. The remaining colleges managed double-digits: LIT lost 43.5%, TSTC Waco 41.2%, and TSTC West Texas 24.4% from 2009 to 2013. On the other hand, TSTC Harlingen’s double-digits were in the POSITIVE range, with that fortunate, apparently well-managed college gaining–gaining–22% of this critical demographic.  Let’s see how it looks in a graph (click on the image to enlarge):

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-Fall 2013 140207

Lamars and TSTCs First-Time Full-Time Students Fall 2009-Fall 2013

This graph rather dramatically reveals TSTC Waco’s fall. The college went from having about twice the first-time, full-time students of any other college in its peer group in the fall of 2009 to plummeting downward to the tune of over 500 students and being surpassed in this category, albeit by just a handful of students, by TSTC Harlingen and its steadily rising first-time, full-time student numbers by the fall of 2013. Of course, TSTC Harlingen has that large contingent of academic students that TSTC Waco and the other TSTCs lack. Academic numbers aside, however, TSTC Harlingen’s technical student numbers have risen dramatically, as well, as visitors saw in Wednesday’s post. Harlingen is doing something right.

So let’s be clear here. The evidence already shows that TSTC Waco’s drop isn’t just about “unimportant” or “fringe” demographics like continuing education or high school dual credit. No sir. This is about TSTC Waco’s bread and butter: technical students and first-time, full-time students. Let us not forget that full-time students are the folks who, besides paying big tuition bucks for full class schedules, live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria, spend big bucks in the bookstore, and generally spread money around the campus. Losing these students hurts and hurts badly.

Let’s hope that TSTC Waco is taking steps to correct this trend. Maybe Waco folks need to talk to Harlingen. Could that be why the Harlingen president’s former chief of staff has suddenly become a senior Waco official? [NOTE: This post originally stated incorrectly that Harlingen’s former chief of staff had become Waco’s VP for student learning. An article in the Waco Tribune-Herald stated he is a vice provost.] Waco needs new ideas, and I suspect this former Harlingen guy has a few.