Enrollment continues to rise at community colleges

In the months since the state Legislature approved a measure to allow the state’s Community College System to govern itself through a board of trustees, the colleges have experienced a significant increase in enrollment.

For the fall semester of 2008, enrollment at the seven community colleges increased nearly 6 percent over the previous fall. That falls in line with a 70 percent increase over the past decade.

This fall, more than 13,000 students are enrolled at the state’s community colleges. And over 4,000 high school students annually are enrolled in community college courses through the Running Start program. 

Among the highlights:

• White Mountains Community College in Berlin has seen an enrollment increase of 12 percent over last year.

• Manchester Community College enrollment has increased more than 13 percent over last year.

• Great Bay Community College in Stratham has seen applications increase by 24 percent, with an enrollment increase of nearly 8 percent.

• River Valley Community College in Claremont enrollment has increased nearly 6 percent.

In addition, many college programs are currently filled to capacity – a sign that the system is meeting its mission of training workers for high-demand fields, system officials said.

For example, White Mountains Community College recently created programs in welding and massage therapy, both of which are filled. At Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, officials have reported full classes in allied heath programs. All seven colleges’ nursing programs are full as well.

At Manchester Community College, officials have noted record enrollment in their growing menu of online courses.

At Lakes Region Community College, the state’s only associate degree programs in fire protection and fire science continue to see strong enrollment, and college officials said they anticipate increasing interest in a new energy services and technology program and a media arts and technology program, both recently developed at the college. 

The colleges have reported several other trends:

• An increase in students applying for liberal arts transfer programs. At Great Bay Community College, for example, liberal arts applications have increased 50 percent.

• New students tend to be younger each year, increasing the traditional student population.

• Colleges continue to see an increase in interest from displaced workers.

• Prospective students are learning about the colleges from a variety of marketing avenues, such as direct mail, e-mail, radio, television and print advertising. As a result, attendance at admissions events has increased.

• Some 95 percent of community college students are New Hampshire residents.