Community college enrollment might be shrinking

Sep 20, 2012

The economic downturn caused a boom in enrollment at community colleges nationwide. But that trend may now be reversing in Missouri.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, national enrollment at community colleges grew 20 percent between 2007 and 2011.

Now, enrollment may be coming down. Some St. Louis schools are anticipating declines in head count between 10 and 20 percent.

Kent Phillippe is a researcher with the American Association for Community Colleges. He says a dip in enrollment may be due to students entering the workforce who enrolled during the recession.

“They may be leaving the community colleges having received the training that they may have wanted,” Phillippe says.

Dean Joe Gilgour says State Fair Community College enrollment benefited from the boom, but the hangover could be coming.

“We jumped up about 20 percent. Now that the economy has rebounded slightly, we're starting to see people go back to work," Gilgour says.

Despite this, Gilgour says, the head count at State Fair actually grew 2 percent this fall.

Dean James Grant says enrollment at Moberly Area Community College remains steady, continuing a trend he has seen since starting with the school in the early '90s.

“I came here in 1993, and we only had one year when enrollment went down. It's either been a flat year, or it's increased,” Grant says.

Researchers say trends are difficult to anticipate. Any dip would be based on a number of factors, including high school graduation rates, mounting tuition costs at four-year schools and the economic outlook.