Fewer students, more $ in oil belt

With enrollment plummeting, Dawson Community College in Montana’s oil and gas belt is offering free tuition to “dual enrollment” high school students and to former students who are close to a degree, reports AP.

Dawson’s enrollment dropped 22 percent from fall 2011 to 2012; the college is down to about 259 students.  At Miles Community College, enrollment fell by 9 percent to 368 students.

The Bakken oil boom is partially to blame, said DCC President James Cargill. Students who graduate from high school may be lured to higher-paying jobs in the oil fields rather than going to college.

. . . The college also is struggling to find instructors for technical programs such as diesel and gas mechanics and welding technology because people with those skills can make more money in the oil fields.

Tuition waivers will go to high school students taking college classes in the Early Start program. Under Finish Line, adults who’ve dropped out three or more year ago can take up to 10 credits tuition free.

Miles Community College is stressing training in oil, pipeline and coal jobs, such as heavy equipment operation and construction. Students also can train for high-demand jobs in computer technology and auto mechanics and for health careers such as phlebotomy, pharmacy technician and medical lab technician.

Flush with money because of the oil boom, North Dakota is spending more on higher education.