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NORMAL - Heartland Community College leaders say by changing enrollment options - and forcing students to say 'good-bye' to late registration - they'll see more campus success stories.

Kicking off its new model, Heartland asked students interested in college-credit courses to enroll prior to May 22 for this summer's three sessions. For the fall semester, a July 31 date has been set.

Previously, students could join classes even as late as the second class meeting of an ongoing session.

A late-enrollment window was afforded - from May 28 to June 1 this summer, and Aug. 3 to 10 for fall classes. But missing either the May 22 or July 31 dates carries a stiff $75 penalty.

The new stricter model came after much consideration, said Kathleen Collins, Heartland's dean of student services and academic support.

"We want to instill awareness in our students to enroll earlier," she said.

Community college researchers have found when students join classes after start dates, they often arrive with a disadvantage, said Collins.

Students also benefit from signing up early, as a better selection of open seats is available, she said.

"The ultimate goal of student services with this model is to increase student success, in particular with retention of students," she said.

Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, is the leader in this research, she said. In Illinois, John Wood Community College also follows the model, said Collins.

The earlier registered students tend to arrive at class better prepared - both in terms of specifics, such as staying on top of assignments and readings; and in terms of periphery concerns, such as having assessments show the student is placed at the right academic level, and that the student's financial assistance options are in place, said the Heartland dean.

The school has built on this idea by creating an enrollment process that includes not only class registration, but also a full-plate orientation.

Required of all new students, the program walks each new arrival through student services programs - such as library and tutoring options, as well as assessments, introductions to academic advisors, and tutorials on building successful class schedules and online registration.

While Heartland summer enrollment has slightly dipped from last year - with 90 fewer enrolled than 2006 - Collins said leaders still preferred making the adjustment during summer months.

The enrollment model change might not have been the cause of the 4 percent drop, anyway: A variety of factors could affect such change, and summers in particular have a history of zigzag enrollment trends, said Janet Hill-Getz, Heartland spokeswoman.

Of the 2,200 people enrolled this summer, students are taking about 10,275 credit hours, 290 fewer than last summer's Heartland tally.

Credit coureses refer to work that generally transfers to universities or can be applied toward earning degrees, as opposed to noncredit community education offerings.

Besides its weekly business hours, Heartland offers two Saturday registration days for fall semester - June 23 and July 31.

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