The enrollment boosts many community colleges had been experiencing looks to be over. It's dropped for the second year in a row locally as well as statewide in Illinois and keeping those high numbers up is key to keeping college costs down.
"We've seen some pretty huge numbers come through Rock Valley College in the last few years and some of that has tapered off now," says Amy Diaz, associate vice president of student development for Rock Valley College.
In 2010, Rock Valley College saw about 9200 students. In 2013, RVC enrollment dropped to about 8200. That's 11 percent in three years. Highland Community College has gone from 2800 students in 2010 to about 2600 in 2013, which is almost a 10 percent drop. Overall, community colleges throughout Illinois have seen a six percent drop.
2010 2013 % Drop
RVC 9,172 8,178 11%
HCC 2,842 2,566 10%
IL (total) 389,432 366,003 6%
"Numbers started to drop-off somewhat in part due to people returning to work or completing the programs that they entered during the recession," says Elizabeth Gerber, associate vice president for student services at Highland Community College.
Rock Valley hopes to make up some of its shrinking numbers by targeting returning adult students ages 25 to 55.
"It could be that they've been laid off and maybe they are working again now. And now that they are working they may realize that in order to gain a promotion or do something even different than what they are doing right now that they need to go back to school," says Diaz.
It might not seem like a big deal for community colleges to gain or lose a few hundred students a year, but it comes with a cost.
HCC "It used to be that community colleges were funded a third by state funding, a third by local tax funding and a third by tuition. State funding is down to 12 to 14 percent of our budget and therefore as you can image we rely even more student tuition so clearly having a maximized enrollment means we can hold our tuition down," says Gerber.
Highland says the enrollment drop isn't just because people are getting jobs. The population of college aged students in northwest Illinois is shrinking too.
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