Community colleges see population increase


By Sarah Meedel

The Community College Times reports community colleges across the nation are seeing a massive increase in student enrollment.

On the East Coast, Dorsey L. Kendrick, president of Gateway Community College in New Haven, Conn., told The Times the student population grew by 14 percent in the past year. Barbara Grano of Lakeland Community College near Cleveland, Ohio, told the publication the 10 percent increase in enrollment is causing classrooms on her campus to stretch beyond their limits.

Omaha has also seen an increase in the community college population. Debra Emery, assistant director of public relations at Metro Community College, says enrollment has risen by 4.57 percent since last fall. The current student population for the fall quarter stands at 12,253 — slightly less than UNO’s, 15,423.

There are multiple theories on what is contributing to this sudden rise.

Emery believes the increase in enrollment may be related to the current economic situation.

“Traditionally, in difficult economic times, enrollments usually go up at community colleges as more people seek to start school for the first time or go back to school to pick up some new job skills,” she says.

Pamela Transue, president of Washington State’s Tacoma Community College told The Times she believes the faculty’s commitment to students is what keeps them coming back.

“I think it has to do with our emphasis on good teaching as our primary criterion for hiring faculty,” Transue told the publication.

Affordability is another reason students are choosing community colleges.

Emery says, “Most classes offered at Metro are equivalent to classes offered at UNO.

“The number one reason students choose Metro is cost.”

A class at Metro comes at about a third of the price as one at UNO does.

Tuition at Metro is a little over $30 per credit hour. A standard class at Metro is four and a half credit hours, which is equivalent to a three-credit hour course at UNO. Undergraduate resident tuition at UNO is just over $100 per credit hour this year.

Emery says another reason students choose Metro is its convenience. The college offers three campuses and serves a four-counties: Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge and Washington.

Classes are offered at various times, including evenings and weekends.

It is not uncommon for students to attend both UNO and Metro.

“A good percentage are dual enrolled,” Emery says.

Many will choose to attend community colleges for a wealth of reasons.

Bismark Nissirian, a policy analyst with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, told The Times: “For most families, the economic turndown doesn’t manifest itself in depleted portfolios but instead forces them to make different choices. For those people, community colleges present a safety net.”


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