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Lake Michigan College sees record-setting enrollment, number of grads

Published 4:14pm Friday, July 30, 2010

Over the past year, Lake Michigan College has seen record-setting enrollments, hours of classroom instruction, as well as number of graduates. For the 2009-10 academic year, which ended June 30, unduplicated student enrollment increased by 16.7 percent over the previous year.

According to a report by the Michigan Community College Network, LMC saw the second highest enrollment growth rate among the state’s 28 community colleges during the fall of 2009 when enrollment stood at 4,690, a gain of 18.8 percent over the previous fall semester. Kirtland Community College in Roscommon had the highest increase at 19 percent. The college’s winter semester enrollment came in at 4,696, a 22 percent increase over the previous winter semester and the largest semester ever at LMC.

“For the first time in Lake Michigan College’s 63-year history, we delivered more than 100,000 contact hours of instruction during an academic year, a 25 percent increase over the previous year,” said LMC President Robert Harrison. “That number represents instruction provided to students of all ages who understand that a college education is essential for marketability in today’s challenging job environment.”

Harrison went on to add that the region’s flat population numbers coupled with the increase in the number of students the college is serving could be a signal that a higher percentage of residents will have college credentials to present to prospective employers.

“In the long-run, having a better educated workforce positions this region favorably when companies look for places to expand their businesses as the economy rebounds,” added Harrison. “It is our mission to provide the programs that will help position our region and our residents for success.”

Harrison points to affordable tuition rates, and to the expanded nursing and medical imaging programs, the energy production technology program and a broad base of degree offerings in business, hospitality and advanced manufacturing as benefits that are attracting students to the college.

According to Executive Dean of Student Services John Selmon, the record-setting year was fueled by increases in all areas of student ages, status, location, gender and ethnicity. The area in which the College saw the highest percentage gains was students age 25 or older, accounting for 40 percent of enrollment. One in four students was over the age of 30.

“This is an indicator of how heavily our region is relying on Lake Michigan College for career retraining during these tough economic times,” Selmon stated.

The college’s enrollment growth story carried through to all of LMC’s campus locations:

• In fall 2009, the Bertrand Crossing campus in Niles posted a 26 percent enrollment increase over fall 2008; and a 34 percent increase during winter 2010 over the previous winter semester.

• The winter 2010 semester was the largest semester for the South Haven campus since its opening in 2003, with a total of 749 students.

• The fall 2009 and winter 2010 enrollment increases at the college’s M-TEC facility were 32 percent and 30 percent respectively, with most of the growth attributed to the college’s Energy Production Technology program that currently has in excess of 200 students enrolled.

• The Napier Avenue campus in Benton Harbor saw 300 more students during fall 2009, and 400 more students during winter 2010 than the respective previous year’s semesters.

“Last year, parking lots and classrooms were full,” Harrison said. “We worked hard to make sure that we had high-quality instructors to teach the additional students. We expect more of the same this year. We understand how critical it is for us to step up to the demand and deliver the training residents of our region need during these transformative times.”

As the college enters its 64th year of operation, Harrison believes that the renovation of the college’s science labs and curriculum, and new programs in logistics, agriculture and computer gaming and design will continue to provide opportunity to residents and strong enrollment levels.

“I expect that as our economy improves over time, our enrollments will level off, and maybe even drop a bit,” Harrison said. “But intuitively we all know that the jobs the new economy will present to us will require college-level training, and Lake Michigan College will be here to help people of all ages meet that challenge.”

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