This blog has published several posts concerning TSTC Waco’s enrollment woes (e.g., “TSTC Waco’s First-Time, Full-Time Students“). Clearly, the college is going to have to do something differently to stop the drop. Accordingly, I invite my visitors to compare the two images below, excerpts from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s report, Space Usage Efficiency (SUE), Fall 2013. Specifically, compare the classrooms and labs in use after 5:00 PM at TSTC Waco, the first image, and the Lamar Institute of Technology, the second image. (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Source: THECB's Space Usage Efficiency Report Fall 2013

Source: THECB’s Space Usage Efficiency Report Fall 2013

Page from the THECB's Space Usage Efficiency Report Fall 2013

Page from the THECB’s Space Usage Efficiency Report Fall 2013

We can’t compare the raw number of classes since LIT is smaller than Waco, but we CAN look at the relative level of activity throughout the day. As opposed to TSTC Waco, lunchtime comes and goes almost without notice at the Lamar Institute of Technology, and just look at all that activity after 5:00 PM, whether talking classrooms or labs. From the looks of the graph, TSTC Waco is almost a ghost town after 5 o’clock. Oh, there are a few classes and labs open alright, but it’s almost unnoticeable in the graph given the high level of activity that went on before the college’s apparent “quittin’ time.” Waco seems pretty fond of its lunches, too, judging from those 12 o’clock dips. I guess that’s what clock-watchers will do to a graph, eh?

For the most part students are students, whether in Central Texas or South Texas, and LIT’s clocks tell the same time as Waco’s.  I would imagine that many students who work during the day and would otherwise attend TSTC Waco would love the opportunity to take night or–dare I say it?–weekend classes in, say, auto mechanics or other technologies. Of course, Waco (and LIT for weekend classes) would have to find the instructors to teach them or have the instructors it already has teach them after 5 o’clock or on Saturday. In other words and with a nod to the 7 AM classes and labs at Waco, what is traditionally thought of as the “8 to 5” mentality would have to go. Apparently the weekday 8 to 5 mentality is already history at LIT, although its Saturday and Sunday lines, like Waco’s, are as flat-lined as an EKG hooked up to a body at a morgue.

Weekends aside, I suspect LIT is doing a fine job of meeting prospective students’ needs by keeping its doors open at night. Admittedly, LIT lost a bunch of first-time, full-time students, too, but its annual unduplicated student headcount and technical student count have both remained relatively stable compared to Waco’s. TSTC Waco could use a little stability about now, and the same type of students LIT attracts would pay off handsomely for TSTC Waco, as well. After all, even part-time students pay tuition and buy books, parking permits, and the like. Furthermore, all students have to do is complete 9 semester hours, or about three classes at a TSTC college and they could pay off under the TSTC system’s new funding model. They don’t even have to graduate or land a job in the technology they studied to pay off for the college! Everybody would win: students who weren’t able to take classes during the day could get an education, and TSTC Waco could boost its numbers (remember, now, TSTC West Texas has reminded us that numbers matter) and, thereby, its budget.

It’s all about money: students who need to learn how to make it and a college that needs the funding, both locally generated and from the state, that students bring. And behind it all are numbers. One of the numbers influencing Waco right now is the number “5” on a clock’s face.

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