Seattle has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation for the last decade, with 360,000 new residents moving to the city between 2010 and 2020. The aptly named Seattle Central College has been at the epicenter of this growth, but has it made itself known to the new residents of Seattle?
Roberto Bonaccorso, Director of Communications at Seattle Central, says, “enrollments have been in decline since the end of the 2008 recession.” The trend, Bonaccorso says, is state-wide. “People were not coming to us for job retraining, which is one of the main purposes of community colleges,” the director continues.
However, Seattle Central has been and continues to be a career college. During the 2019 – 2020 academic year, 46% of students at Seattle Central enrolled in a professional or technical program, compared to 43% who enrolled in an academic program.
Seattle Central is home to a number of robust career training programs. There’s Culinary Arts, Visual Media, Carpentry, Apparel Design, and Dental Assisting to name a few. However, when a survey was taken of 41 students in both the Visual Media and Graphic Design programs, collectively known as the Seattle Central Creative Academy, 73% of them said they learned of the program through word of mouth. The other 24% discovered the program through a Google search.
Bliss Holloway, the Program Coordinator of Visual Media, says that there is space for expansion of the program but that it is still brand new. Additionally, Holloway doesn’t seem worried about the program but does express a desire for it to grow in the long term. However, when asked if Seattle Central was specifically promoting the Visual Media program he responded, “to my knowledge, no.”
In regard to program-specific advertising, Bonaccorso says, “unless it is a new program or a program that needs help, we do not generally promote individual programs.” The director cites a lack of resources as the reason why Seattle Central’s marketing strategy is limited, a sentiment similarly echoed by Jocelyn De Jong, Senior Associate Director of Admissions for Recruitment and Communications at the University of Washington.
Although resources are limited, De Jong says the strategy at UW to increase enrollment differs from program to program. She continues, “the strategy for increasing students in the humanities programs, for example, will differ with the strategy we employ to increase under-represented students.”
De Jong says that they are currently working on increasing enrollment in the liberal arts. “We’ve employed some strategies to generate interest, such as email engagement campaigns, and also found a way to source names of students who are considering [similar] institutions and demonstrating interest in the liberal arts,” she explained.
De Jong continued, “we need to … refine our value proposition in this space.” This is because UW is generally seen as a STEM school, not a liberal arts institution.
Potentially, career programs at Seattle Central may be experiencing a similar phenomenon. Holloway says that people may not know that they have access to a program like the Visual Media program at Seattle Central.
“I think a lot of people are interested in [photography and videography], but not many people know that it’s a viable career choice,” Holloway says. “It’s sort of like a hobby that people think of … They don’t connect the fact that we’re here and we could teach and train them how to turn that passion, that hobby, into a career.”
Another staff member at Seattle Central expressed frustration with the Communication and Marketing Department with one of the editors at The Collegian, but when they were contacted for comment they said they “would rather not speculate about it” because they were not directly involved.