Summer enrollment up at community colleges

Posted July 15, 2010, at 12:56 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Enrollment at the state’s community colleges is up 16 percent this summer, according to information released Wednesday.

The total summer enrollment at the Maine Community College System’s seven campuses is 4,960, an increase of 669 students over last summer, according to Helen Pelletier, spokeswoman for the system. The growth in enrollment during the summer semester followed a similar 15 percent increase for the spring semester.

Since 2003, enrollment in Maine’s community colleges has grown 62 percent, making it the second fastest-growing community college system in the nation, Pelletier said in a press release.

System officials attributed much of the enrollment growth to the weak economy and high rates of unemployment, she said. As tough times persist, many individuals are seeking to upgrade their job skills or prepare for a new career.

“In tough times, the increase in enrollment in our community colleges is one reason for optimism,” MCCS President John Fitzsimmons said in announcing the summer enrollment numbers. “More people than ever before are investing in their future. As the economy begins to recover, it is critical that individuals, and the state as a whole, have the work force skills necessary to compete for good jobs and attract new industry to Maine.”

The largest increases in summer enrollment were at Central Maine Community College in Auburn, up 60 percent to 675 students, and York County Community College in Wells, up 44 percent to 518 students. Southern Maine Community College in South Portland saw a 13 percent increase to 2,161 students.

Summer enrollment at other colleges in the system had the following changes over 2009:

• Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, from 476 students to 485.

• Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, from 799 to 777.

• Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, from 275 to 287.

• Washington County Community College in Calais, from 47 to 57.

One of the reasons enrollment at EMCC rose by just nine students, according to Elizabeth Clayton, director of marketing and public relations at the college, is that renovations to the campus’ academic building limited the number of classes that could be offered.

A natural gas conversion that includes the replacement of a boiler and the installation of a heat pump along with the installation of a new student records system made classroom space unavailable and tied up staff time, she said Wednesday.

The energy renovations are expected to be completed before the fall semester begins and paid for with a combination of money from a bond issue passed in 2005 and federal stimulus funds, Clayton said. The student records conversion is expected to be completed by January.

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