College's enrollment is a record

2,634 students register for fall at CCC in Westminster

`Providing a better service'

Officials encouraged by numbers directly from high school

Carroll County

October 09, 2001|By Melody Holmes | By Melody Holmes,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A record number of new students and a stable base of returning students signing up for classes at Carroll Community College have propelled the school to its highest enrollment, college officials said.

This fall, 2,634 students enrolled in classes at the Westminster college, marking a 5.9 percent increase over last year and beating 10-year projections from the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

College officials were particularly upbeat about the large number of students new to the college.

"The nature of a community college is that students will attend classes and then skip a semester or two and then come back because of the low tuition, easy access and job skills that are taught," said Craig Clagett, vice president of planning, marketing and assessment. "So the thing we're most proud of is that the number of students new to college is at an all-time high."

Both full-time and part-time student counts were up, meaning that attendance by students newly out of high school and older adult learners is rising, Clagett noted.

"That means we're providing a better service to the community," he said. "And the more students that come, the more resources we can attract and the more we can add to our programs."

The college is expanding its nursing and allied health programs and hopes to have a new building for those departments. "Growth in enrollment always helps us there," Clagett added.

This fall's enrollment surpasses predictions from the state's Higher Education Commission, which released a report in July projecting that the college would have ,593 students enrolled for full-time or part-time studies by 2011.

Clagett attributed the trend to a recent upsurge of part-time adult students. The increase in students could lead to an increase in funding for the community college.

"A priority has been to invest state resources into Maryland colleges and universities, so we use [enrollment] projections as a planning tool," said Karen Johnson, secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Committee.

Johnson said the commission uses growth projections to estimate state budgets to allot to institutions.

Because of the importance of enrollment to earning state funding, college officials hope to keep attracting part-time adult students by adding programs and classes. Among offerings aimed at luring an older crowd is the option of shorter semesters, scaled down from the usual 15 weeks to seven. Those classes meet for longer periods to build up the required number of credit hours. Additional perks offered to adult students are once-a-week classes and online courses.

"We've learned in market research that adults want shorter semesters," Clagett said. "Adults like to be able to work on their own time, and this [flexibility] really helps."

Other Maryland colleges and universities have experienced what Johnson called a "huge surge" in part-time enrollment.

An overall growth of 27 percent is expected for enrollment at state schools during the next decade, which would amount to about 61,000 more students, according to the commission's report.

"Community colleges are at the forefront in providing opportunities for nontraditional students," Johnson said.

Other findings in commission's report include:

The number of full-time graduate and professional enrollment will increase by an estimated 23 percent by 2010.

The number of part-time students will increase by about 82 percent in the period.

Only a third of college and university students will attend institutions full time as undergraduates, marking the lowest prediction since the commission began gathering such data in 1996.

Of particular pride to officials at Carroll Community College was the fact that the school's fastest-growing areas of study align with the state's labor market demands.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his work force commission have named information technology specialists, teachers and nurses as the three most-needed professions in Maryland.

The largest growth in enrollment at Carroll Community College has been in information technology, teacher education and nursing.

"It's great," Clagett said. "We're really playing our role as a community college."

Sun staff writer Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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