President discusses enrollment during annual address

Enrollment, plans for remodeling the Science Building and a pathway for students to Texas Tech University were among the topics discussed by Dr. Robin Satterwhite during the third annual State of the College Address.

“The purpose of this is to communicate,” Dr. Satterwhite, president of South Plains College, explained during the address held on Nov. 2 in the Sundown Room of the Student Center on the Levelland campus. “One of the initiatives that we identified several years ago in the survey is how can we be more communicative, how can we share more information, how can we make sure that our faculty and our staff and the rest of the college also know what’s going on. Not just know what’s going on on a day-to-day basis, but to understand the strategic outlook of the college.”

Dr. Satterwhite began the address by talking about enrollment. He explained that community college enrollment is directly related to unemployment.

“At a community college, as unemployment rates go up, enrollment goes up,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “That’s something we’re always cautious about. Since 2011, the unemployment rate has dropped significantly. However, our overall enrollment at South Plains College has not. That is a really good thing.”

Dr. Satterwhite said that he attributes the steady rate of students to multiple things. But he mainly attributes it largely to the work on recruiting new students and retaining current ones.

“From fall to fall, we’ve dropped about 28 students,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “We would love not to have a drop, but in consideration of everything else, dropping 28 students is really good.”

Dr. Satterwhite explained SPC is a part of the High Plains Region, even though he considers the college’s demographics and population to fit better in the West Texas Region. The High Plains Region has seen an increase of 5.38 percent in enrollment rates, while the West Texas Region has dropped 4.2 percent.

Dr. Satterwhite also discussed potential plans for renovations to the Science Building on the Levelland Campus.

“We had a donor who contacted us, an alumnus of South Plains College,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “He said he would like to give back to South Plains College. And he wants to be a part of what was going on and a part of making SPC a great place.”

Dr. Satterwhite said that the process of matching the college’s needs with the interest of the donor is really important. He said that the focus began to land on the Science Building.

“It was built in 1964,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “One of the things that’s great about South Plains College is that we have 60 years of tradition. One of the challenges about that 60 years is that we have 60-year-old buildings.”

The building is currently 48,000 square feet, and the proposed renovations include an additional 30,000 square feet and 23,000 square feet of remodeling. Dr. Satterwhite said that the projected cost of the renovation is $13.5 million.

“We are about to embark on the process of a capital campaign,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “We’re going to have to do this largely in donations.”

Dr. Satterwhite said that the capital campaign will be lead with the alum donor, who has committed to half of the $13.5 million.

Dr. Satterwhite also discussed SPC developing a pathway initiative with Texas Tech.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to develop that relationship with Tech so close that Texas Tech sees us as their primary source of students,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “Not just that they will accept our students, but they will see us as our partner in trying to get students to Texas Tech.”

Dr. Satterwhite said that SPC and Texas Tech are close to another agreement, in which students who are not accepted to Tech will be directed to SPC. Tech would encourage students to attend SPC in order to transfer.

Dr. Satterwhite said that he wants students to see this as a pathway, not necessarily two different institutions that are trying to work collaboratively.

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