‘Bueller? Bueller?’ Delta College is calling out for nearly 2,000 less students


With the fall semester underway, a number of classes at Delta College have been canceled due to low enrollment.

Marsha Fernando gets her caricature done during the Associated Students of Delta College Welcome Back event. PHOTO BY MICHAEL R.N. WEBER

“Around 30 to 40 sections have been canceled,” said Dr. Matthew E. Wetstein, assistant superintendent/vice president of instruction and planning.

Classes in sections such as foreign language has had cancellations, as well as classes on high school sites that are part of Delta’s Dual Enrollment program in departments like political science and communication studies.

According to Wetstein, Delta College is funded for around 16,300 students.

However, there are currently about 14,500 enrolled at Delta, leaving the college down near 1,800 students.

Delta College students walk to class. There are visibly fewer students on campus for the Fall 2017 semester. PHOTO BY MICHAEL R.N. WEBER

There are a lot of factors that contributed to Delta’s low enrollment, the primary one being the economy.

“Right now the unemployment rate for this county is the lowest its been since I’ve been in Stockton,” said Wetstein. “And I’ve been here for 23 years.”

Since the economy has been improving, people are getting more part-time jobs, which results in them taking fewer units and working more hours.

According to a Fall Enrollment/Comparison chart from this semester, Delta College has more students enrolled this fall compared to Fall 2016. However, there are fewer units being taken this semester compared the Fall 2016, which leads to the cancellation of classes.

Delta College isn’t the only community college experiencing low enrollment; it has become a national issue.

“If you look at data on national community college enrollment, you’ll see a downward trend over the last three or four years,” said Wetstein. “The general pattern across the country is that there is this low enrollment because of the improved economy.”

Another reason for low enrollment is the California State University and University of California systems

Students that have the opportunity to go to a four-year university out of high school will likely choose to attend a four-year rather than a community college.

“When the economy is good and the state revenue is good, those colleges and universities are actually growing their freshman class,” Wetstein said. “So if you think of it as a competitive market place, like us versus them, a lot of students make the choice to go to a four year, so we end up being the second or third choice, which means we get fewer students.”

In an attempt to reach out to adults in the county and improve the enrollment and taking of units at Delta College, an emphasis on social media marketing has been put in place through a process called geofencing.

Geofencing allows ads to be pushed on to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as Pandora.

Through a purchased list of households occupied by people around the ages of 18-25, Delta can push ads for the school on to people’s social media when they log on.

“We also target places that we know people of that age group congregate,” said Wetstein. “So we also geofence around high schools, we geofence around malls, shopping areas, and for adults not working or that are on unemployment, we push ads around WorkNet offices and EDD (Employment Development Department) buildings in Downtown.”

Other targets for geofencing are students that have applied to enroll in the college but never officially registered.

These students are sent a text message from the school reminding them that they haven’t registered, with a link to the website to do so.

According to Wetstein, this method has proved to be effective.

“We did that last year for around a thousand students. About 990 of them read the text within 48 hours and 700 of those students ended up registering within a week,” he said.

The next plan for improving enrollment is having professors teach incarcerated students in locations such as Deuel Vocational Institute south of Tracy and the Department of Juvenile Justice Center in Stockton.

There is a business associate’s degree two classes being offered in the fall; a psychology class and a computer science class, scheduled to start on the first week of September.

“One of the ways to think about it is if they (incarcerated students) are going to get their life turned around, education may be one of those avenues and so they’re going to end up at Delta college anyway,” said Wetstein. “The ability to serve them as kind of an on ramp while they’re incarcerated and establishing that relationship with them as a college that’s helped them out is positive for those students.”