“How many students attend Santa Fe Community College?” sounds like a simple question, but the answer depends a great deal on who is asking the question. Student enrollment data is captured in many ways to provide many different types of information.
Most state government agencies want to know total headcount by term, but only of those students who are registered for credit classes. The federal Department of Education, on the other hand, is interested only in those students seeking a degree (we use “declaring a major” as a proxy for that) and in some cases, they are interested only in those who are full-time and first-time college-goers. And they will want anyone who is auditing all their classes in a given term excluded from their counts! Still other agencies want an unduplicated headcount for the entire year, i.e. how many individual students took courses for credit over the whole year, even if they took several classes over several terms. And for every one of these types of totals, breakdowns by full and part-time study, by gender, by race/ethnicity and by age and residency are expected.
Student Credit Hours (SCH)
Often of equal importance to the health of a college or department within it is how many credit hours each student and all students are taking. Two thousand students each taking a one-credit exercise class generate 2,000 student-credit hours. But 500 students taking a four-credit English course generate the same 2,000 credit hours. What revenue is generated, how classes are taught and by whom can determine how successful each kind of enrollment is, and which is to be preferred, if either.
While a small portion of funding is based on headcount, the state of New Mexico bases much of its formula funding on the number of student credit hours taken by in-state students at a given institution, in the year two years prior to a given budget year.
To obtain comparative data on many variables reported by all institutions to the National Center for Education Statistics go to www.nces.ed.gov/ipeds and click on “Peer Analysis System” or “Executive Peer Tool”. Another valuable source of national data on public institutions is www.sheeo.org.