Enrollment at AACC declines 5.1 percent Fewer part-time students attending this fall

September 29, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Fewer students have enrolled at Anne Arundel Community College this year than last, but school officials say they are not worried.

"It's not a panic situation for us," said Leonard Mancini, dean of student services. "It's happening, and we need to do some things about it."

Figures released by the school Friday show that enrollment dropped 5.1 percent, from 11,890 last fall to 11,278 this year.

Much of the decline stems from an 8.2 percent decrease in part-time students, caused in part because of an 11.3 percent decline in part-time evening students.

Mancini said many of those who did not return to school this semester said it conflicted with their jobs.

"When you have a lot of work to do, you don't have time to go to school," he said. "They have to get their work schedules in order, and same with their kids' schedules before they enroll."

Others, like Marie Lefniowski, can't afford to return to school. The 22-year-old Glen Burnie resident was ready to enroll for another year until she learned she could not receive financial aid. So she went to work at a hotel in Linthicum.

"I can't afford it," she said, explaining that she went to college last year on a grant. "I like school, but I can't go."

The drop in enrollment reflects the experience of most of the state's community colleges, said Kay Bienen, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.

"It seems to be across the state, but it's not an unexpected decline," she said. "Unemployment has been way down so people are not taking courses for new jobs. And the economy hasn't been real strong, so businesses are not paying their employees to take courses."

To reverse the trend, officials at the Arnold campus are considering a number of initiatives, including offering eight-week courses -- instead of the typical 15-week sessions -- that start about three weeks into the semester and offering six classes for FTC credit at Arundel Senior High School in Gambrills. Courses previously offered at the high school had been noncredit classes.

College officials also are considering offering more classes on weekends.

"These are internal factors that we're trying to control," Mancini said. "And if we can offer classes that are more convenient, people will come."

Mancini said school officials are elated with a 3.4 percent increase in the number of full-time students. The increase, from 3,155 last fall to 3,262 this year, was a surprise because there was a 6 percent decline in six of the graduating classes at county high schools.

Much of the growth is attributed to distribution of $280,000 in financial aid, Mancini said.

State and school officials are optimistic that the enrollment figures will rise next year. Mancini pointed to an estimated 8 percent increase in county high school graduating classes this June.

But it's business as usual this fall for many students.

"The parking lots are still crowded, the cafeteria is still crowded, and the classes are still big," said Heidi Cox, president of the Student Association. "I haven't noticed a change."

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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