Community colleges see increases in enrollment

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Apparently when the economy goes south, a lot of people turnback to the halls of academia as a stepping stone for a betterlife.

Area community colleges, as well as those around the state, arereporting a substantial jump in enrollment so far this semester,with final numbers not even in just yet.

Copiah Lincoln Community College President Dr. Ronnie Nettlessaid Co-Lin is up about 14 percent at this point, coming out toabout 450 students district-wide. He said that brings overallenrollment to 3,700, which is the college’s largest enrollmentever.

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“I think it’s probably true for all community colleges that whentimes are tough economically, people look for opportunities whereit doesn’t cost as much to go to school,” he said. “Sometimespeople without jobs or looking for jobs come to school to train orretrain, and the end result is a lot more students going toCo-Lin.”

And Southwest Mississippi Community College Vice-President forAdmissions and Registrar Matthew Calhoun said numbers at Southwestare up around 9 percent, with a current total of 2,053.

“Friday is our last day for registration, and we usually get apretty good bump on that last day,” he said. “I’d hate to guess atwhat it’s going to end up.”

Both Nettles and Southwest’s President Dr. Oliver Young said therecord enrollment is good news for the schools, but presentschallenges when it comes to accommodating the influx.

“Usually the enrollment goes up and the funding goes down. Thestate’s funding is not quite as high, but community collegesadjust,” Young said. “We’ve been funded at a certain level but ifthe revenues for the state continue to drop they could come downand cut our funding. They could cut us as much as 5 to 10 percent,we’d just have to make adjustments, cut travel and supplies, andhopefully not have to cut salaries.”

Nettles pointed out that in situations of growth, colleges areforced to add instructors and supplies such as desks and chairs, aswell as needing to find classroom space to accommodate theincreased numbers.

“Obviously we have to add different sections, like in Wesson wehave around 14 additional sections of classes,” he said. “And ofcourse you have to pay teachers to teach those, and you hireadditional instructors. We respond to these types of things.”

Nettles and Young both agreed, however, that the jump inenrollment is a good problem to have, even if it does force schooladministrators to have to find creative solutions.

“All the challenges, despite all that, this is an exciting time,and we are delighted to have these students here,” Nettles said.”The important thing to keep in mind is the student aspect -keeping up the learning, and having good teachers and greatfacilities.”