Enrollment down at local community colleges

By WEEK Producer

March 28, 2013 Updated Mar 28, 2013 at 7:06 PM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- Enrollment at Illinois Central College is down over 8-percent from last year at this time.

But why? The school's vice-president of student affairs points to several factors.

Guy Goodman says enrollment spiked during the recession, increased by the people going back to school to re-train themselves after losing jobs. But some of them are working again.

"Now that we're on the upswing away from the recession the unemployment rate continues to improve. I think that has an impact on the number of students that are attending community colleges," explained Goodman.

In response to the drop in enrollment the ICC board of trustees voted this week to increase tuition roughly 8-percent.

According to Goodman history is merely repeating itself. He says a fluctuation in enrollment at ICC also occurred following a recession in the mid-1980's.

"Our enrollment spiked up, then we came out of it and our enrollment dipped," Goodman said. "So some of that we can attribute to that cycle."

The same thing is happening at Heartland Community College in Normal. They've seen a similar drop in enrollment and attribute at least a portion of it to cuts in student aid.

Heartland's Dean of enrollment services says that includes MAP grants.

"MAP dollars are disappearing earlier and earlier. I believe it was March 1st this year and many of our community college students are making the commitment a little bit later in the school year," said Padraic Shinville. "So by the time they make a commitment to us some of those MAP dollars will actually be exhausted already."

Shinville also says some community college students are leaving school early, either to work or enroll at a four-year college.