Archived Story

Community colleges seeing enrollment numbers rise

Published 9:31am Tuesday, September 15, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

The effects of a tough economy, scores of job losses and the need to be versatile in today’s workplace have had an impact on community colleges throughout the country, offering flexible class schedules and courses geared toward returning students – and Lake Michigan College is no exception.

“We are seeing increases in the number of students in all categories, from recent high school graduates who want to save an average of $17,000 on the first two years of their bachelor’s degree compared to what they would pay at state universities in Michigan, to adults who want to be more marketable in today’s job market,” said Laura Kraklau, director of marketing services at LMC in Benton Harbor.

Even in the early weeks of the school year, community colleges across the country are reporting significant increases in preliminary enrollment numbers.

At LMC looking at preliminary numbers, considering the possibility of cancellations, changes etc., Kraklau said, “overall, we are up 15 percent in headcount over last year, and up 23 percent in contact hours.

“We are seeing increases in all categories of students, but we’ve especially seen an increase in students 25 years and older, with an increase of 25 percent in that age category,” she added.

Kraklau also said the number of full times students has increased by “32 percent over last year.”

At the Bertrand Crossing Campus, executive dean Barbara Craig said the school has even had to bring in extra tables and chairs to accommodate the increase in students. She was especially thankful “to our great team at Bertrand of teachers and advisors and student services and maintenance folks who have been working so diligently and professionally throughout the summer.”

Kraklau said “the numbers at the Bertrand Crossing Campus reflect the same type of strong enrollment… Headcount is up 30 percent over last year; and up 41 percent in contact hours. As of Sept. 11, 467 students were registered at the campus.”

Between saving money by staying close to home and utilizing affordable education to help in building their occupational futures, a broader spectrum of students are filling the hallways of colleges like LMC.

And some of the college’s programs could be seen as especially helpful to those who are trying to find work.

“No Worker Left Behind and our Michigan Works! friends have helped a lot of folks get back on track by coming back to train for a new career,” Craig said.

“The nursing and medical imaging programs remain strong. I know times look bleak for many workers, but I am proud we get to help folks out who in a downtime have made the decision to improve their skills and proud of them for doing it.”

LMC has also taken a close look at the types of jobs available in the area and are gearing their courses toward developing an educated pool of workers for those opportunities.

“The college’s focus has been on expanding and enhancing our career programs in areas like nursing, medical imaging and energy production,” she said. “These programs directly address the types of employment available in our region and students have been taking advantage of them. The bedrock for all of these programs is the science curriculum. This has also been an area of intense focus for LMC as we expand the types of science learning experiences we can make available to our students.”

As is the case for many students when they head back to the classroom, the numbers regarding enrollment could change, as could majors and degree pursuits. But the focus at LMC remains the same.

“We are still a little community college campus,” Craig said. “And are proud to be able to step up when times are tough and the community needs us.”

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