As economy improves, community college enrollment falls

When the economy tanked a few years ago, enrollment in Nebraska’s community colleges rose as more people looked to better their educations and resumes. With the economy picking up, enrollment is beginning to fall.
Jack Huck is president of Southeast Community College in Nebraska where the number of full-time students dropped 1.6% for the fall quarter and fell 4% in the first two quarters.
“This is a trend that is pretty consistent with community colleges nationwide,” Huck says. “I’ve talked to a number of my fellow presidents across the country in the last few weeks and generally, community colleges across the nation are on the level or are in the declining-slightly category.”
Southeast has campuses in Beatrice, Lincoln and Milford. Huck says the enrollment reversal is a reflection of the nation’s financial fluctuations.
“The economy is not getting better by leaps and bounds,” Huck says. “The economy is improving on a slow basis but a fairly steady basis and as the economy improves, that will have a negative impact on our enrollment.”
Huck says Nebraska is still in a long-term trend of fewer high school graduates, something officials expect to continue for another seven to eight years. That means community colleges are competing with other higher learning institutions for a smaller pool of high school graduates.
For the first two quarters of this year, enrollment is down in all divisions of the college, except for agriculture, food and natural resources, and continuing education. Full-time enrollment totals 2,925, compared with 3,048 for the same period last year.
Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice