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Enrollment Up At NH Community Colleges Amid Recession

Posted: September 01, 2009
by WMUR NH Chronicle

The recession has prompted some college students to rethink how much college they can afford.

New Hampshire community colleges have reported record-breaking enrollment this year. Community colleges have suddenly found themselves struggling to keep up with demand. For example, fall enrollment at the New Hampshire Technical Institute is up by an unprecedented 16 percent.

Enrollment is also up at Manchester Community College. A record 2,500 students will be in the classroom for the fall semester -- an increase of 12% from 2008 and up 25% since 2007.

Many of the students at NHTI are aspiring nurses learning about patient care, many of whom are adults seeking to launch a new career -- but the face and age of the typical community college student is changing.

"I've met a lot of people who were going to (the University of New Hampshire) or other colleges and they've had to drop here because it's just too expensive to go anywhere else and the quality of the education seems pretty good," said Jessica Montminy, who transferred to NHTI.

Montminy is part of something those in higher education call the two-plus-two model. The 19-year-old plans to complete her basic course requirements at NHTI for about $5,000 a year before transferring to Dartmouth College to finish out her bachelor's degree -- two years of community college plus two years upper-tier university equals significant savings.

"It's what you have to do in this economy," Montminy said.

"This is something we've never seen before at the college," said Tom Foulkes, vice president of continuing education.

Foulkes said typical growth at the school is between 2 percent and 5 percent, but administrators are scrambling this fall to find space for a surge of 450 new students -- a 16 percent jump from last year.

Administrators said students are getting quality classes at bargain prices.

"Every dollar we bring in gets returned to student services in some form -- instruction or infrastructure. We're nonprofit, plus we do get support from the state," Foulkes said.

One downside of the sudden uptick of enrollment at community colleges is parking. It's suddenly as competitive to find a parking spot at NHTI as it is at a traditional four-year university.