Community College Enrollment Dip Sparks Concerns

Ann McClure's picture

Slowing enrollment at Ivy Tech and other community colleges across the nation is fueling worries that efforts to increase the number of adults with college degrees will falter at a time when the economy and businesses most need a skilled workforce.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, many community colleges nationwide are seeing enrollment declines of 3 percent to 5 percent. That's a troubling sign for those who have been trying to increase the percentage of adults with postsecondary degrees by boosting enrollment at community colleges.

"Community colleges have always been the most affordable option for college, and if people in this recession have reached the point where they can't even afford community college, it should be worrisome for the nation," said Norma Kent, the association's senior vice president of communications. "Employers are already saying, 'I can't find the workers that I need."'

The decline stems in part from a drop in the number of high school graduates. That number peaked nationally in 2009 at more than 3.3 million but has fallen since then. At the same time, the flood of adults returning to school between 2009 and 2011 because of the recession has begun to ebb at many schools.

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