Northern Maine Community College. Credit: Courtesy of the Northern Maine Community College

Maine community college officials said that a robust job market is part of the reason behind a nearly 6 percent drop in enrollment this fall.

The decline is part of a larger trend in higher education. Undergraduate enrollment nationwide is on track to fall more than 3 percent after declining last year, according to newly released data.

Maine Community College System President David Daigler said part of that is likely due to more job openings, which has led students who enrolled last spring to instead move into jobs.

“So they’ve left credits stranded, because they don’t have the degree and learning that’s taken place. But they have enough learning to get some traction in the workplace,” Daigler said.

Daigler said the system is working on ways to educate people while they’re working, such as creating new training programs with businesses. The system has dramatically increased its short-term training programs for workers in recent years in fields such as health care and manufacturing.

Meanwhile, preliminary numbers across the University of Maine System also show an enrollment decline of about 0.5 percent. But officials note that the system’s flagship campus in Orono has brought in more out-of-state students, resulting in a 2 percent increase in student numbers.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.