Last week, Blackhawk Technical College’s enrollment was down 1.5% from last year.

But Jon Tysse, the college’s director of institutional research and effectiveness, said Monday that this year’s enrollment numbers were about even with last year’s. He expects—no, he knows—that enrollment will rise as the semester goes on.

Counting students at Blackhawk Tech is more complicated than it was two years ago because the college implemented flexible start times in many subject areas.

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Here’s how much of a difference two weeks can make:

  • At the beginning of the school year, the college’s enrollment was down 4%.

On Day 15, the head count was 2,290—down from 2,323 last year, a decrease of 1.4%, according to Blackhawk Tech data included in the board’s packet.

  • The number of credits students were taking was down 9.6% at the beginning of the school year.

On Day 14, the percentage difference was 6%.

Flexible scheduling allows students to start school whenever they want in certain programs.

Want to be a food science technician, welder, auto mechanic or information technology specialist? You can enroll before the semester begins or you can start tomorrow—or next Tuesday.

“It’s a sea change moment for us,” Tysse said. “It’s a sea change for students.”

Students no longer face the enrollment pressure they did in the past, he said.

People who attended college remember what it was like. You wanted to be first in line or online the moment registration opened or you wouldn’t get the classes or instructors you wanted.

Consider this: During the spring 2019 semester, credit hours in the welding program grew 68%.

Tysse expects to see growth in credit hours at BTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Milton. The college also plans to add another section to its certified nursing assistant program as soon it finds enough hospitals and nursing homes willing to host clinicals for students.

Clinicals are like supervised internships for CNAs.

Another area of growth is the Basic Corrections Academy, a four-week, 160-hour course that teaches students how to be correctional officers. The next session of the course hasn’t started yet.

Changes to scheduling mean college officials must keep careful track of enrollment numbers throughout the semester.

“It’s really changed how we look at things and how we plan for things,” Tysse said.