DA Autotech Dept. suffers low enrollment

Stephanie Lam, Staff Writer

Over the past six years, De Anza College’s automotive technology department has faced a shortage of student enrollment. The decline in enrollment, according to department chair and machining instructor Dave Capitolo, was gradual and almost proportional to the declining enrollment at De Anza.

“[Automotive Technology] declining enrollment is not because of loss of popularity or any pragmatic thing.” Engine performance instructor John Walton said, “I think it’s just regional occurrence, fewer people on campus…Our program otherwise is really highly funded. It’s not some…program that’s falling apart.”

Yet a factor that contributes to the declining enrollment, according to auto tech instructor Bill Wishart, is the recent amount of people going straight into the working industry as opposed to coming to class.

“It’s kind of an interesting phenomenon here, with the high tech industry. When there is problems in the high tech industry everyone comes back to school.” Wishart said. “[20]09 we had huge numbers of students down here…now that we see tech is hot, we see that students…go ahead and get involved with the working world.

This quarter that the department had to cancel about five classes, both specialized and general, according to Capitolo. If the cancellations continue due to the lack of enrollment, he says that it will delay the completion of the auto tech student’s degrees and certificates.

“A majority of our students have a focus in Automotive Technology.” Capitolo said. “We do have some that go in to our introductory classes that are just students from around campus…but the majority of our students are focused on automotive technology and want to be here. So if we cancelled classes, they really have nowhere to go.”

In an attempt to reach out to more students, the department decided to focus their attention on marketing. They set up recruitment booths around campus, mailed out flyers designed by De Anza’s office of communication, advertised the department to high schoolers in the Fremont Union High School District, and reached out to adult schools partnered with Foothill-De Anza Community College District Adult Education Block Grant.

Although Wishart said that the outcome of the department’s efforts have so far been successful, Capitolo, Walton and Wishart believe that De Anza should have done more to support that effort. While the Office of Communication helped to create materials such as flyers, the three said that it was ultimately the auto tech department that initiated those marketing programs and carried them out.

One area that the department wants De Anza to help provide leadership and guidance in, according to Capitolo, is dual-enrollment. Capitolo says that the automotive technology department as a whole is ready to participate in dual-enrollment, which could help to alleviate current enrollment problems.