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December 27, 2012 10:00 AM When Community College Enrollment Declines

By Daniel Luzer

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The continuing recession has caused a huge increase in the number of Americans seeking out community colleges. Many new students are laid off workers seeking retraining in the hopes that it will lead them to better paying jobs. Others are relatively affluent high school graduates attending community college because their parents can’t afford four years at a traditional institution.

But in at least some places there’s a sign the economy might be improving; community college enrolment is going down. According to an article by Cindy George and Jennifer Radcliffe in the Houston Chronicle:

Enrollment at Texas’ community colleges dipped about 2 percent this fall - a surprising reversal attributed, in part, to the state’s improving economy.
Community and state colleges had 13,046 fewer students this fall than the previous one, putting enrollment at 727,589, according to preliminary figures released by the state this week. Other post-secondary institutions, including public universities and career colleges, experienced at least slight enrollment gains.

Enrollment declines follow the economy pretty closely. Some regions experienced greater enrollment declines than others. “Areas of the state undergoing an economic boom, such as with lucrative energy jobs near the Eagle Ford Shale natural gas and oil formation, are experiencing more substantial enrollment declines than other regions.” More job growth means fewer people want (or need) to attend community colleges.

We don’t have national figures for this sort of thing yet though eventually, if the economy picks up, community college numbers are likely to decline throughout the nation.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer