Archive for Monday, November 2, 2009

Enrollment shift

Rising community college enrollment may be a temporary trend — or a long-term shift for higher education.

November 2, 2009


It will be interesting to track the current upswing in community college enrollment to see whether the increase is primarily a response to the current lagging economy or the start of a new trend in higher education.

A story in Friday’s Journal-World quoted figures from the Pew Research Center, which reported that college enrollment last year hit an all-time high in America. Almost all of that increase, however, came not at four-year colleges but at two-year community colleges. Enrollment counts aren’t complete for the current school year, but the American Association of Community Colleges reports that many two-year schools have seen growth of 10 percent or more this fall.

A couple of factors appear to be at work. Some students who don’t plan to pursue a four-year degree may be looking at community colleges for vocational or technical training that will increase their chances of getting a job in the current tight market.

For many, however, it’s a simple matter of dollars and cents. According to a study released last week by the College Board, average tuition and fees for a year at a community college were $2,372, compared with an average of $7,020 at public four-year colleges and a whopping $26,000 at private colleges. These students can do the math. Even if they want to get a four-year degree they can save a bundle by attending a community college for two years and then transferring to a four-year school.

There are several lessons in this for higher education policymakers like the Kansas Board of Regents. First, this trend is something to consider as the regents approve higher tuition rates or higher admissions standards for state universities. One of the byproducts of those actions almost certainly will be to drive more students into community colleges. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it could mean that the focus of universities turns more to educating upperclassmen and graduate students.

It also means community colleges would be playing an even greater role in the state’s higher education system. That could become a funding issue. It certainly makes it essential for the state’s higher education system to ensure students can have a seamless transition from community colleges to state universities without losing course credits.

The current trends may be temporary, or they could be signaling a significant shift in how the state’s higher education system operates. Time will tell.


ilikestuff 8 years, 6 months ago

Community college is a great value especially given recent & significant increases in tuition & supplies at universities. I went to Johnson County Community College prior to KU & the effort made there to insure student's grasp of coursework was impressive. From qualified teachers to small class size, ease & expense of enrollment, integration of technology, etc it’s hard to beat. For young, naive students it's a welcomed difference, an easy choice. Experienced, certified teachers, well paid & content or overburdened GTA’s and professors overwhelmed w/obtaining necessary research grants? For getting through early prerequisites, I can’t imagine a better value than JCCC.

LogicMan 8 years, 6 months ago

With this generation's unsevered umbilical cords ("helicopter parents"), doing 13th and 14th grade while continuing to live at their parents home is increasingly attractive to both the less-than-prepared-for-the-real-world students and their overprotective parents.

So instead of fighting the trend Douglas County and Lawrence should take advantage of it by starting a modest junior college (and not by sending our local dollars to JCCC). The old Carnegie Library, or a repurposed K-12 school building would be good places to start one, and courses could also be offered at satellite facilities in Baldwin and Eudora.

I'm sure there are plenty of part-time instructors available locally; employing them would also help keep the dollars local.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 6 months ago

My thirty-five year old daughter is enrolled at Johnson Country Community College and loves it. The teachers work closely with her as it has been a few years since she was in school She likes the small classes and the way the campus is laid out. Her goal is management in medical IT. Her daughter is working on her masters in economics at KU and advises her mom on the pitfalls of college life. JCCC is the third largest college in Kansas. This is the perfect educational choice for so many.

slang4d 8 years, 6 months ago

I absolutely love JCCC. The price and convenience are very important for a working adult. I've taken numerous online classes there and the time I've saved hours of time not having to sit in a classroom.

There's absolutely no reason to do the 64 credit hours of general ed. at KU. It costs three times as much and they don't bother making it convenient for non-trad students unlike comparable (and cheaper) four-year universities like CU.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

For years I advocated for a VO-Tech campus and/or a community college. The same reply " can't afford to do it".

Yet here not too long ago USD 497 came up with a source worth $20 million. To spend on sports facilities that which in too many cases encourages long term injury to knees,ankles etc etc and apparently the groin area.

I say schools are a long term fiscally responsible investment. The pay back is good salaries on campus and educating individuals with marketable skills to become productive as business owners or skilled technicians.

News media has stated over and over the education industry does not lose ground during slow economic times. In fact enrollment increases as individuals seek to make themselves evermore marketable.

It may mean a Bachelors or a Phd. Or becoming skilled in the art of alternative energy installation,maintenance,design or manufacturing.

JCCC is a great school. Rumor has it they may become a four year college. Attracting excellent professors is one of their strengths. It is a good bang for the buck.

AnnaUndercover 8 years, 6 months ago

This story reminds me that I'd like to take a JCCC class or two. Their Web site isn't the friendliest to interact with, but if I show up at their office, maybe I'll find some science class to exercise my cerebrum in 2010. Yay for inexpensive opportunities to learn.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.