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Daymar's Paducah enrollment lowest in five years

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

The latest available figures from Daymar College's Paducah campus show enrollment and staffing levels at a five-year low, a fact college officials attribute more to the economy than other issues facing the Owensboro-based system, including a pending lawsuit filed by the state's attorney general.

Five years of data provided by Daymar College, a for-profit institution, show enrollment and staff levels peaked in 2011. Daymar's Paducah enrollment dropped 63 percent (369 students), to a total of 216 in 2013, compared to 585 in 2011. Total staff (including instructors) dropped 40 percent (12), to a total of 18 in 2013, compared to 30 in 2011.

Enrollment figures for the last five years, according to Daymar's Campus Accountability Report (CAR), showed: 2009, 263 students; 2010, 540; 2011, 585; 2012, 368; and 2013, 216. The CAR figures are reported annually by Daymar to its accrediting body, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

Staffing totals are not part of the CAR. According to Daymar officials, staffing totals for the last five years were: 2009, 19; 2010, 21; 2011, 30; 2012, 23; and 2013, 18.

Susan Cooper, director of government relations for Daymar, declined to give current enrollment figures for the Paducah campus, indicating the number fluctuates at any given time of the year. However, Greg Webb, Paducah campus president, said recent enrollment efforts have been encouraging.

"Our enrollments are down some this past year, just like most other higher education institutions across the state and country," Cooper said. "This is often the case when jobs are more available and the economy is improving."

Staffing correlates to the increase/decrease in student enrollment at any given time, she said.

In addition to Paducah, Daymar College has campuses in Bowling Green, Clinton, Louisville, Madisonville, Bellevue, Owensboro, Russellville and Scottsville in Kentucky, and in Chillicothe, Jackson, Lancaster and New Boston in Ohio, as well as online course options.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway filed suit against Daymar College in 2011, accusing the institution of violating the Consumer Protection Act by engaging in "unfair, false, misleading, and deceptive trade practices." The suit said the violations related to transferability of credits, recruitment and enrollment, the purchase of textbooks and supplies, use of student's financial aid funds, and information provided to prospective and continuing students. The suit also alleges the college's requirement that students purchase textbooks and supplies solely from Daymar represents an unlawful restraint of trade.

Both sides appeared in Daviess Circuit Court in March. According to Allison Gardner Martin, communications director for the attorney general's office, efforts to settle the case have been unsuccessful, and the discovery and deposition process is continuing. 

The attorney general's office is "pushing for a trial date as soon as possible," Martin said.

Cooper said the college has complied with all requests for information relating to the lawsuit, and the college is prepared to "aggressively defend" itself as the case heads toward trial.

While any negative publicity could possibly impact the college, "I don't think the lawsuit has hurt our enrollment as much as the economy," Cooper said.

According to Webb, Daymar students are typically older than many students entering community college or four-year institutions.

"Our demographic is different," Webb said. "Our students are a little bit older, and may be going through a transition in life. Each one has their own unique set of circumstances and find themselves in need of an education."

According to Webb, the Paducah campus offers a variety of associate degrees and a bachelor's degree specific to health care administration.

The administrator said he has not heard any concerns from students enrolling at the Paducah campus in some time. Morale among staff has also been encouraging, Webb said.

"We're very positive and focused on our mission, which is to provide our students a path to a better life," Webb said. "That's why I get up and go to work every day."

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

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