Community College Enrollment At Record Levels

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A tough economy has sent hundreds of thousands of students back to school, people who are seeking new skills to equip them with the tools to succeed in a rapidly changing workforce. Community colleges, also known as junior and technical colleges, have welcomed the lion’s share of students as these schools have seen a 16.9% increase in enrolled students from Fall 2007 to Fall 2009.

Community College Boom

college studentAccording to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) says that more than eight million students are taking credits at community colleges thanks to a greater number of high school students and returning adult students enrolled. The ACCC says that the average tuition and fees at community colleges is just $2,544 which compares to an average $ 7,020 at public four-year institutions and $26,273 at private four-year institutions. Clearly, the price advantage is a strong suit for these types of colleges.

Returning adults have benefited from community colleges as these schools offer programs which can help them return to the workplace after having been laid off. Indeed, many adult students have found their career path has come to an end, which means that they must acquire new skills to pursue jobs elsewhere.

Adjusting To Meet Demand

The sudden surge in students has forced community colleges to adjust in order to meet demand. Most schools practice what is known as “open enrollment” whereby schools must take in most eligible applicants. Class sizes have increased, adjunct faculty hired, and class schedules expanded, to accommodate everyone.

Like state colleges and universities, many of the public community colleges have been stung by budget cutbacks, forcing these schools to make do with less. Some colleges are passing increased costs on to students, placing a heavier burden on the backs of the critically unemployed. Yet, with state coffers tapped out, community college administrators have no real options available to them.

College Transfers

The ACCC is also raising awareness of the need to streamline transfers between two-year and four-year institutions. As someone who successfully navigated that process a generation ago, I can personal vouch that making that path a smooth one is critical to helping students gain a bachelor degree from a four-year institution.

Source: American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)

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