Odessa College is seeing a steady increase in annual student enrollment and could set a new semester record this fall.
Donald Wood, OC vice president for institutional effectiveness, said the community college is making tremendous progress in moving toward the goal of its OC 10,000 initiative, which aims to achieve 10,000 unduplicated students in a single fall semester.
Unduplicated headcounts count a student one time for every campus versus tallying a student multiple times in a system because they are enrolled in a section more than once.
Last fall, 6,618 unduplicated enrollments were counted at OC, about a 5 percent increase from the unduplicated enrollment count of 6,308 students in fall 2017.
OC Director of Media Relations Cheri Dalton said a common trend in the Permian Basin is enrollment numbers decreasing during prosperous years in the economy. She said many prospective students will opt for jobs in the oil and gas industry during economic booms and seek out educational options after the oilfield has slowed down.
“We have changed that trend here at OC,” Dalton said. “Our enrollment has continued to increase every year for at least the last six to seven years, which is unusual because the oilfield has been in an upswing.
She said one explanation could be the flexibility of offerings like eight-week semesters along with evening and weekend courses.
The vice president for institutional effectiveness said the highest annual unduplicated enrollment recorded by OC during a 16-week term was 7,363 students, and when the institution transitioned to offering eight-week semesters the lowest enrollment number, 7,464 students in 2014, eclipsed the 16-week record.
Enrollment figures from last fall show 22,286 students across the Permian Basin attended Odessa College, the University of Texas Permian Basin, Midland College or Howard College.
“Thirty percent of them came here, the majority came here,” Wood said. “We are now the biggest institute of higher education here in the Permian Basin so OC 10,000 is working.”
UTPB reportedly had 26 percent of those students attend their institution, followed by Midland College with 24 percent and Howard College with 20 percent of the student population.
Officials are not ruling out the possibility that OC will break another enrollment record this semester.
Wood said OC could see up to 7,000 students enrolled this fall semester with help from OC2UTPB, a new accelerated teaching program that is drawing hundreds of students to consider options available at the community college.