MCTC’s low enrollment in language courses

Meggan Carlson



These days most colleges require at least one to two years of a language before graduating, which makes the choice of choosing to study a language pretty much a done deal. Most students choose something familiar, such as Spanish, while others might like to take on the challenge of learning the harsh pronunciations that the German language offers. However, when choosing a language course at MCTC, the number of options being offered is slowly reducing in size. After recently pulling Chinese due to its lack of enrollment, MCTC now offers six different language courses: American Sign Language, Arabic, Dakota, Ojibwe, Japanese, and Spanish. Yet, there’s been difficulty just in filling up these last few languages.

Lixin Zhang, an international student from China studying here at MCTC, explained that reasons for low enrollment may be due to certain majors or programs that do not involve any completion of a language course. “It’s not required and it’s not a primary class. The nursing program is a course which does not have a language requirement.” Jai Whitworth, another student of MCTC, described that language courses should not be seen just as an obligation by students. She pointed out that “People are seeing languages as a requirement as opposed to greater opportunity. English isn’t all it takes to communicate. The relationships you can create with people by just having a basic understanding of their language are crazy!”

Darren Witwer, one of MCTC’s faculty members who teaches both Spanish and World Religions, was able to answer a few questions about MCTC’s language enrollment. He said that based on the low registration in languages off of the advanced college courses already being offered in high schools. “Enrollments are dropping because of PSEO, especially because of the PSEO called Concurrent Enrollment.

“We’re being asked to create relationships to mentor North High right now and probably Park High school. We would sort of be putting a stamp of approval on these classes being taught at other sites, and that may be their faculty, it may be ours,” Witwer said, “It depends: do they have someone who’s qualified? They have to meet all the standards to do that. One of our teachers is teaching at North High right now.” Students are already finishing up their required language courses during high school, and are either taking PSEO classes or CIS courses before attending college, Witwer explained.

Though this is a problem for MCTC, Witwer did offer some ways that MCTC might try and work around the lack of students taking language courses. The idea is to offer higher semester levels so that once students finish their required courses in high school, they are able to take more advanced semesters as soon as they enter college.

Though MCTC’s language enrollment may be doing somewhat poorly, Witwer pointed out that they are offering languages that are not commonly taught during high school. “I also see that there’s interest in other languages like Japanese and Arabic. They’re actually doing fairly well.” When Chinese was brought up, and how it had been discontinued at MCTC, Witwer commented “That didn’t do as well. Sometimes it is difficult to say, is it because of the teacher? Is it because the program is just kind of small to maintain itself? And that’s sort of where Japanese is right now. We’ve got a first year course, but we’re having difficulty getting enough critical mass to move it into a second year… but there are a lot fewer high schools competing with us. Same with Arabic.”

The trouble at MCTC with low enrollment in languages is not as bad at other schools. When asked about whether or not these PSEO and CIS classes were also affecting other colleges, Witwer replied that “If you want to see how it’s really collapsed at some schools, look at Century [College]. They use to have four semesters and I think they’re down to two now, which really makes us nervous. They’ve got one [language] teacher now.”

In the past at MCTC, languages have been removed based off the shortfall of their programs or their unpopularity. Nowadays, the lack of enrollment in language courses is strongly based off the huge amount of high school students finishing their required language courses through PSEO or CIS courses. If the enrollment in these courses during high school continues to increase, MCTC may have difficulty providing an adequate amount of languages to teach.

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