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Surging enrollments at community colleges over the last three years have significantly moderated, according to a new report from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Enrollments at community colleges—the largest sector of higher education with close to 44 percent of all U.S. undergraduates—have increased for eight of the past 10 years, but the prolonged recession has spurred recent dramatic enrollment spikes. From fall 2008 to fall 2009, enrollments were up an average 11 percent nationally, and from 2007-2009 enrollments increased close to 17 percent, according to AACC.
Total enrollments have grown by 1.4 million students since 2007, when the recession began, bringing the total number of credit students to about 8.2 million students. Community colleges also enroll an estimated minimum 5 million non-credit students.
The new findings indicate that from fall 2009 to fall 2010 the total increase in enrollment was about 3 percent, which is about 250,000 students. The data also suggest the colleges experienced a larger percentage increase in full-time enrollment than in part-time enrollment. Historically, two-thirds of community college students attend part-time.
Other findings suggest that community colleges have been able to meet increased student demand, despite persistent cuts in state and local funding driven by faltering state economies and competing demands on public coffers. Less than one-third of colleges responding to the survey reported that they were unable to serve all eligible students, with insufficient funding and limited physical capacity cited as the primary reasons.
In several states, no colleges reported data, making the findings indicative but not conclusive, AACC said.
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