College enrollment growth is slowing, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report. The center projects 15 percent growth between 2010 and 2021, down sharply from the 46 percent increase between 1996 and 2010. By 2021-22, there will be a 21 percent increased in both associate and bachelor’s degrees the report projects, a 34 percent rise in master’s and a 24 percent boost in PhDs.
Nearly half of colleges and universities expect enrollment declines, according to a survey by Moody’s Investors Service. A third of the schools project a decline in tuition revenue.
“The cumulative effects of years of depressed family income and net worth, as well as uncertain job prospects for many recent graduates” mean students aren’t willing to pay high tuition at non-elite colleges, said Emily Schwarz, lead author of the report.
With state funding often failing to keep up with enrollment growth, community colleges have struggled in the past decade, concludes a U.S. Treasury report, The Economics of Higher Education. Meanwhile, for-profit college enrollment has soared.
Community colleges depend on state funding, notes the Huffington Report. State funding has fallen behind enrollment gains, caught up, then lagged from 1999 to 2009, according to the report.
In 2009, community colleges received approximately $6,450 per FTE (full-time equivalent) student, only slightly higher than the $6,210 in 1999,
According to the report, the funding decline for public colleges and universities bottomed out in 2005, then slightly increased before dropping again in 2008.
Because of the budget squeeze, community colleges are pushed to either raise tuition or or to limit class size, and often choose the latter, leading to a correlating spike in for-profit college enrollment. According to the report, community colleges are “more likely to serve low-income and first-generation student populations than four-year schools, and these students now constitute the bulk of the student population at for-profit schools.”
Both community colleges and for-profit colleges primarily serve low-income and first-generation students, the report found. When public colleges put students on wait lists, the for-profits expand quickly to meet the demand. While completion rates are low for community college students, graduation rates are high for students in for-profit vocational programs of two years or less. And there are no wait lists.
Community colleges are struggling to meet student demand, reports Inside Higher Ed.
In California, with the state budget still in limbo, colleges have been forced to cut class sections and put more students on wait lists. The Los Rios district near Sacramento has four colleges and 40,000 students on wait lists: For every two students enrolled, there’s another student waiting to get in.
In Las Vegas, the College of Southern Nevada is handling growing enrollment by hiring more part-timers and prioritizing high-demand classes. Still, 1,541 students tried and failed to register for biology 187, a key “gateway course” for many science majors; there’s space for 1,082 students.
Last year, the college began offering classes between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. This year, 20 different courses will meet at unusual times.
At Central New Mexico Community College, in Albuquerque, enrollment has grown by more than 25 percent in the past three years and students are taking more credit hours per semester. There are wait lists in introductory English and math at “bottleneck times” of 10 am to 2 pm and 5 to 7 pm, noted Phillip Bustos, the college’s vice president for student services.
To accommodate those who cannot get into a section of a course essential for graduation, transfer, or continuance to a higher-level course, Bustos said, the college is getting some faculty and students to work together for something akin to an “independent study” — meaning faculty do additional one-on-one work with a few students. Also, though the college has not done so yet, Bustos said, it may alter its traditional practice of keeping classes to less than 30 or so students before the beginning of spring registration.
Calhoun Community College in Alabama is letting more students “substitute equivalent courses within programs of study for one another if they are a course or two short of graduation or transfer.”