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North Carolina Community College Enrollment Rises

The North Carolina Community College System reports that Fall 2019 enrollment in degree programs rose at 53 of the state’s 58 campuses by an average of 3.8%. Enrollment in shorter term trade programs also increased by nearly 9.5%. Prior to the Fall semester, community college enrollment in North Carolina had been declining for a decade.

Peter Hans, the president of the North Carolina Community College System attributes the rise to a number of factors. The State provided more money to train workers in high-demand fields like health care, manufacturing and information technology. Hans also pointed to new programs, stronger recruitment efforts and better academic counseling. The system also received a grant to fund a statewide advertising campaign. Overall, North Carolina enrolls about 700,000 students each year in its community colleges. On average, each campus is about the size of WCC.

So, investment in new programs, stronger recruiting, better academic advising, and advertising reversed a 10-year declining enrollment trend at 91% of the state’s community colleges. To be sure, North Carolina takes a different administrative approach to community colleges. All colleges belong to a single, centralized system. In Michigan, each community college is substantially funded by the community that hosts it.

On the other hand, the community that hosts Washtenaw Community College provides substantial funding to create new programs; improve recruiting and academic advising; and advertise. But instead, WCC uses the taxpayers’ money to pay down loan debts on buildings that the taxpayers didn’t approve and that weren’t intended for student use; grossly expand the size of the administration; and pass out $26M no-bid contracts.

It takes vision, creativity and strategy to increase enrollment at a community college during a period of economic growth. So far, Washtenaw County taxpayers are still waiting.

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