Northeast enrollment

FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS at Northeast Community College (from left) Alissa Gubbels, Blake Bartling and Devan Reicks said the familiar and welcoming atmosphere at Northeast was a major factor in their decision to attend. They are all part of the campus student ambassadors group.

A home away from home.

This is the kind of environment Devan Reicks said she was looking for in a college, which she found on the Northeast Community College Norfolk campus.

Reicks, an Albion native, also toured Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Kansas, and said it didn’t quite feel the same to her. Northeast’s accommodating staff also helped her feel comfortable as she made the leap to college life.

“I came here and felt like I saw all these familiar faces ... and the class schedules are really, really flexible,” she said. “I talked to a lot of good people here. They want to make it work on your part. They make sure you have time, and I like that.”

Reicks is one of 1,001 new students who attended Northeast’s New Student Days summer registration event. This is a record since 2012 when the college started keeping track, beating the previous high of 987 in 2016, said Amanda Nipp, vice president of student services.

New Student Days, comprising 12 separate days from May to August this year, allows incoming students to check many items off their back-to-school list, Nipp said. This includes registering for classes, meeting with their adviser, talking with financial aid staff members and learning more about student clubs.

Not every student is able to attend, so the total number of students in the incoming class will likely be higher, she said. Since it’s too early to provide registration numbers, New Student Days registration is an initial indication of the year’s enrollment, she said.

New Student Days registration also allowed students to learn about new opportunities. First-year student Blake Bartling of Verdigre learned that he could apply to be a part of the residence life team, and he was hired as a resident assistant this year.

He’s met a lot of new people before school starts thanks to his involvement as an RA and student ambassador, he said.

“I wanted to be an RA just to help the residents on my floor. … getting (first-years) used to the college feeling, making sure it feels close to home and they don’t feel left out and they enjoy their time here at Northeast,” he said.

Other students also attributed Northeast’s welcoming atmosphere to the reason they came. First-year student Alissa Gubbels of Stuart said everyone has been friendly, and it’s easy to get involved on campus. She’s already involved in the student ambassador team and academic assistance program TRIO, which she calls a “mom support system.”

“(TRIO) is there if you don’t show up for a class. They’re like, ‘Why weren’t you in psych class today, are you not feeling well, come talk to me,’ ” she said. “They’re that support system that’s going to be there.”

The Norfolk campus has faced challenges keeping up with housing needs as interest grows, Nipp said. This year, Northeast can accommodate all 550 students who were promised a space in the dorms, while last year, they put some students up in a hotel at the beginning of the school year after running out of room.

“I think we struggle because we want to give every student who wants to come to college an opportunity to do that,” Nipp said. “If they don’t live on campus, they don’t have another option. Yet we only have so much space.”

There are three dorm halls and one apartment on the Norfolk campus. It can accommodate up to 600 students using “extended options,” which involves converting lounge space into a dorm.

Northeast also has enacted numerous initiatives on its campuses recently that have contributed to student body growth. At the Norfolk campus, Nipp said its rodeo program would be in its first year and has been a new source of student recruitment. There are 17 students on the rodeo team, led by coach Fenton Nelsen.

On the academic side, the college has bolstered its agriculture program this fall by offering a 12th agriculture degree — associate of science in natural resources — and hiring 2019 Northeast graduate Rob Thomas as its first manager of the college farm. The moves are part of the college’s efforts to further merge curriculum with real-world application.

Northeast offers more than 130 degrees, spanning four campuses and two regional offices within a 20-county service area. The new semester begins Monday, Aug. 19.

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