An early look at spring enrollments

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It’s still very early in the spring term, but a steady number of community colleges across the country are reporting initial enrollment increases for the new semester, potentially continuing a trend from the fall that started last spring.

This fall, community colleges gained 118,000 students, a 2.6% increase – the highest growth of any sector in higher education – with dual enrollments again playing a key role in the increases, according to a report released last week by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Dual enrollment appears to again be a lead player in spring enrollments, but officials credit a slate of other efforts that they say also are pushing enrollments, including student financial assistance, marketing and outreach, and more program options, especially in workforce development.

In Texas, the Alamo Colleges District announced this week that it has set a new spring enrollment record with 66,703 students – a 9.7% increase from last year, according to preliminary data collected by the district. Alamo Colleges credits its focus on student success, particularly the AlamoPROMISE program, dual-credit partnerships and expanded workforce education and development offerings.

High school enrollment, including those dually enrolled in high school and at one of the five colleges in the Alamo Colleges District or via early college high school enrollment, is close to 15,000 students.

Other increases compared to last spring:

  • The AlamoPROMISE Scholars jumped to 8,047 students (23.6%)
  • Entering first-year students rose to 2,502 students (4.2%)
  • Continuing student enrollment increased to 44,308 students (11.6%)
  • Returning student enrollment climbed to 1,859 students (11.9%)

Looking at North Carolina

Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina is also seeing record enrollments this spring. It welcomed more than 23,000 degree-seeking students for the first day of classes, up 11% from a year ago. More than 3,500 of those students are new to Wake Tech.

Again, dual enrollment is a driving factor.

“We’re growing across the board, but the number of high school students taking Wake Tech classes is one of the fastest-growing areas for us,” Wake Tech President Scott Ralls said in a release this month.

Other North Carolina community colleges also are seeing increases. Johnston Community College (JCC) has reported record enrollment for the second consecutive semester on the heels of record enrollment this fall. As of January 11, JCC had enrolled 4,766 degree-seeking students–more than any spring semester in the college’s history and a 12.4% percent increase from last spring.

“We see no reason why we will not continue on this upward trajectory, given the booming population in Johnston County, the Commissioners’ Promise for free tuition to recent high school graduates again this year, and our commitment to education and workforce development in our region,” JCC President Vern Lindquist said in a press release.

Following the trend, Wayne Community College (WCC) is seeing its highest spring enrollment since before the Covid pandemic. As of the first day of spring classes, curriculum enrollment at the North Carolina college had increased by 4.6% since last spring and 10.4% since spring 2021. This comes after several semesters of consecutive, incremental growth, the college said.

WCC officials credit the Career and College Promise dual-enrollment program, noting it increased spring enrollment by 7.1% since 2023 and 40.4% since 2021.

Brandon Jenkins, WCC’s vice president of academic and student services, also cited the college’s faculty for its work.

“Enrollment growth of any kind doesn’t happen by itself, and our campus has worked extremely hard to share the good news that is Wayne Community College,” he said.

Reconnecting in Michigan

In Michigan, Kellogg Community College (KCC) had enrolled more than 3,400 students at the start of spring classes, a 14% increase, nearly 430 students over last spring. It marks the fifth consecutive semester of enrollment growth, according to the college.

KCC officials attribute the increase to a variety of factors, including various process improvements related to the development of a new strategic enrollment plan during the 2022-23 academic year, as well as a continuation of a return to normalcy following the pandemic.

“This enrollment increase is due to student persistence and offering options by the college, be it online or in the classroom,” KCC Registrar Colleen Wright said in a news release. “KCC faculty and staff have worked to make varied avenues of learning possible to keep students on their program pathways.”

KCC is also promoting the state’s popular Michigan Reconnect program, which now allows eligible students ages 21 to 24 without a degree to take classes tuition-free. Previously, the program was only open to students ages 25 and up.

But the expansion is temporary, the college noted, and expected to remain open for applicants ages 21 to 24 until November 15.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.