CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: Falling community college enrollments sign of improving economy

Career College Central Summary:

  • Community college enrollments are down – which may be more evidence that the economy is picking up, experts said.
  • A Western Piedmont Council of Government study shows a decline in 2013-14 enrollment numbers for the Unifour area community colleges – Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, Catawba Valley Community College and Western Piedmont Community College – compared to 2008-09 figures.
  • State budget cuts have played a role, though not necessarily as large as some may think, analysts said.
  • Cuts that began with the 2008 recession, resulting in fewer courses and faculty downsizings, are “only one factor. It’s not the primary factor,” said WPCOG data analyst Taylor Dellinger. The main reason behind the recent trend is positive, he said.
  • “It’s because people have found employment,” he said. “When they’re out of work, a lot of them take continuing education programs to get certificates, diplomas, training that they can use to get a new job. Since the unemployment rate has been dropping in the last year or so, and we know there’s been an increase in the number of people who have been in employed in the region, that means they’re at work instead of taking those classes.”
  • Mark Poarch, executive vice president of CCC&TI, agreed: “When the unemployment rate is low, our enrollment drops. When unemployment is high, our enrollment increases.”
  • This trend follows throughout North Carolina and its 58-school community college system, which experienced big enrollment gains in the early years of the recession. Those totals featured a 12.6 percent statewide jump in 2010-11.
  • The WPCOG study examined the enrollment declines in the context of the bigger-picture impact on graduation rates and jobs, an increasing emphasis in North Carolina.
  • Targeting improved employment, the state’s 2014-15 community college budget created improved funding for higher-cost health care and technical education programs. That came with a $17 million cut to community colleges overall and increased tuition costs of 50 cents per credit hour for in-state residents.
  • WPCOG used N.C. Tower System data on rates of employment and wages for associate degree graduates of CCC&TI, CVCC and WPCC.
  • It found that more than three-fourths of associate degree graduates in 2007-08 were still employed in the state after five years. Mean wages were highest in health care and social assistance, manufacturing and public administration.
  • “What was the metric of success? Are they getting jobs in the fields they’re supposed to? Are they getting better pay? In the health care field, students seem to get a better start out of the gate with their wages than the others,” Dellinger said.
  • “There were other sectors where maybe the first year was hard for them to find a job … but eventually, by the fifth year, they were achieving some success, and wages were going up dramatically.”

Click through to read the full article.



Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of