Published: January 22, 2007
More students are starting their college education at a Virginia community college than ever before. Enrollment increased by 5,670 students across the state in fall 2006, to a total of 159,202, an increase of 3.7 percent in students taking credit courses at a community college over fall 2005. That’s a 10 percent increase – representing more than 14,500 students – since fall of 2001, and an all-time high. Among students beginning their higher education at a public institution last fall, nearly one out of every two, 47 percent, chose to do so at a Virginia community college.
“More and more, Virginia families are taking advantage of the high quality and affordability of our community colleges,” says Chancellor Glenn DuBois. “Our student population is getting bigger. They are getting younger. And with the transfer agreements we’ve made with so many four-year colleges, more students are choosing to begin their quest for a four-year degree at a community college. We are proud to be their on-ramp to opportunity and will continue to seek innovative ways to help our students continue their education beyond their community college experience.”
Among the community colleges with significant enrollment increases are John Tyler Community College in Chester and Midlothian; Lord Fairfax Community College in Winchester; and Wytheville Community College in Wytheville.
“Our community colleges are increasingly becoming the higher education institutions of first choice for many Virginians,” says John Tyler President Marshall Smith, where enrollment jumped 13.5 percent last fall and 29.1 percent since 2001. “I think it is a matter of confidence: confidence that the community colleges deliver a quality education that is readily transferable to other institutions, both public and private, and confidence that the student will be treated as an individual with individual needs and priorities.”
At Lord Fairfax in the northern Virginia area, President John J. “Ski” Sygielski says “people in LFCC’s service region and across the Commonwealth are realizing the importance of obtaining a degree and the benefit of attending a community college to do so. As enrollment continues to increase each year, we, as community college employees, have an incredible responsibility and wonderful opportunity to educate the workforce of tomorrow.” LFCC’s enrollment has increased 39.7 percent since 2001.
Wytheville Community College has also experienced strong gains, at 15.8 percent fall 2005 to fall 2006 and 15.7 percent since 2001. “Wytheville Community College’s enrollment increase can be attributed to several factors,” says President Charlie White. “We had strong growth in dual enrollment. The Continuing Education and Workforce Development Department offered more credit classes for companies such as Gatorade and Mid-Atlantic Manufacturing. Also, WCC’s Financial Aid Office was able to provide support to more students in 2006 than in 2005.”
Enrollment trends at Virginia’s community colleges also show:
- The number of traditional bachelor’s degree seeking students, between the ages of 17 and 21, is growing. The percentage of those students has grown from 37.5 percent of the system total in 2001 to 42.8 percent of the total in fall 2006.
- More students are using community colleges as an on-ramp to a four-year degree. The number of students in transfer-oriented degree programs has grown by more than 10,000, from 33.7 percent of the total population in fall 2001 to 36.9 percent in fall 2006.
For students attending a public college or university in Virginia for the first time, the increases are significantly higher – up 29 percent over last fall, and up 57 percent since 2001. Approximately 48,600 students were classified as first time students in fall 2006 compared to 37,668 in fall 2005.
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