Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=125353
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 5:24:03 AM CST
WASHINGTON -- A slumping economy has many young college students keeping a close eye on the cost of education. And with more adults being laid off, community colleges nationwide are quickly becoming a saving grace.
Community college administrators have reported enrollment increases anywhere from four to 27 percent, according to Norma Kent, spokewoman for the American Association of Community Colleges.
But state and county funding, which traditionally make up two-thirds of school budgets besides tuition, have not kept up with dramatic increases in student enrollment.
“(Community colleges) are part of the solution," Kent said. "If you're starving part of the solution, that's not a good thing. Colleges are understandably concerned."
Some officials say they are thrilled to see more students enrolling at their schools but worry the timing may present financial challenges in the near future.
“Ideally, you want your enrollment up when the economy is strong,” said Clay Whitlow, executive director for the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. “Because then you're getting strong funding and can continue things like job training programs that make community colleges so attractive."
Whitlow also said the economy may be a contributing factor to increasing enrollment, but it is not the only one.
“Some people just may not feel comfortable at larger four-year universities,” Whitlow said. “Community colleges are usually close to home, smaller class sizes and have more flexible schedules.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job losses in the month of March at nearly 700,000. Officials say that number has led more people to seek refuge in the classroom.
"Many of these adults are over 50 and thought they were headed toward retirement," Kent said. "Obviously now, that all changes and some have to come back and get re-trained or try new fields of work."