For the first time in its 92-year history, Tyler Junior College has not only reached but surpassed a major milestone with 12,270 students enrolled for the fall 2018 semester.
TJC’s enrollment is up nearly 7 percent from last fall’s total of 11,511 students. The previous all-time high enrollment for TJC was 11,881 in the fall of 2011, which was consistent with the last of the recession-driven higher education boom.
TJC has seen growth in the following categories of students -- transfer students, high school and first time in college students (FTIC) -- while maintaining strong momentum with continuing and returning students which represents the emphasis on academic success, persistence and graduation.
“Enrollment is one of the benchmarks that validates the value that students place on an education from our institution,” said Dr. Juan E. Mejia, TJC president for branch locations and district provost. “We are very pleased that TJC continues to attract students, from our communities, who are interested in improving their futures and that of their families, especially during a strong economic time.”
“It’s exciting to break previous records and set new ones,” Chancellor and CEO Dr. Mike Metke said, “but most of all I’m proud that we did it the TJC way by enrolling more great, local students than ever before.”
Metke said recruitment efforts were scaled back from joint visits to major metropolitan areas with other universities and colleges to focus more attention on attracting students from East Texas communities.
“We really zeroed in on our own back yard,” Metke said. “With our revamped recruitment processes and the TJC Promise program that will be a game-changer for high school students in our area, we are creating a college-going culture that will build a strong local workforce and a strong East Texas.”
The plan paid off. TJC has 3,358 first-time college students enrolled, which is an increase of 420 students from last fall; and the freshman class has more high-achieving students than ever before.
“Compared to 10 years ago, entering students with a 3.0 GPA or better went from 50 percent to 70 percent; and those who earned distinguished achievement high school diplomas jumped from 2 percent to 49 percent,” Metke said. “With these adjustments, we’ve recruited more of the best students TJC has ever had.”
TJC also focused more on accommodating students’ needs by extending walk-in advising and registration sessions into late evenings and weekends as well as working with faculty to offer more sections of popular classes that fill quickly and expanded offerings at TJC North and on Saturdays.
“Putting the student at the center of our decision-making is a key part of our success. We are very excited to have hit historic high enrollment but more important are the quality of students that we are attracting and our college-wide commitment to helping each one of them fulfill their goals,” said Kim Lessner, executive director for marketing and enrollment management.
Metke added that focus wasn’t placed solely on traditional students straight out of high school but also on adults returning to college for additional training.
“We are constantly keeping an eye on the needs of the community, and right now health care and medical jobs are at the top of the list,” he said.
Thirty percent of TJC’s student body are pursuing degrees and certificates leading to careers in the healthcare industry.
In addition to its strong associate degree programs in nursing and health sciences, TJC’s first baccalaureate program, a Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene, is up and running. The program has seen 15 students complete their degrees since it began in fall 2016.
TJC recently received approval to offer a second bachelor’s degree, a Bachelor of Applied Technology in healthcare systems and medical technologies.
This new program builds on and is a completion degree for TJC’s current Associate of Applied Science in healthcare administration, which trains for the practical skills needed in critical thinking, information utilization, and healthcare management principles.
Two more workforce-related associate degrees are making their debut this year. A new industrial maintenance technology program opened in August, and culinary arts will begin in the spring.
“This is an extremely proud day for all of us,” Metke said. “These future graduates will stay in our area to fill the skilled jobs that are needed for the future well-being of our region and for each of us.