Can funding support college enrollment?

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October 18th, 2010

By Clay Masters, NET News

Community college enrollment is projected to increase in the next 10 years. And, as the number of students attending two-year colleges increases, the colleges themselves are increasingly hard-pressed for funds.  During the current tough economic times, unemployed workers are looking to retrain themselves and re-enter the job market. Tight financial situations are forcing students to look for less-expensive alternatives to four-year degrees.

More students seek degrees at community colleges (Photo courtesy Smithsonian, Creative Commons)

In Nebraska, projected employment for workers with an associate’s degree is expected to grow 16.6 percent over the next 10 years. A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City explores the role of community colleges in an area that includes Nebraska. According to Alison Felix, one of the report’s authors, during a recession state and local revenues take a hit. This hurts community colleges because they rely heavily on state and local funding.  “So community colleges are faced with a challenge of educating more students as enrollments are growing,” Felix said “At the same time, state funding tends to be cut so that presents a challenge for those institutions.”

She added most industries that are expected to grow require education past high school. Those industries include health and social assistance, professional science and technical services and administrative/support services. “So we’re kind of shifting, from a time period where fewer workers needed post-secondary education,” she said, “to a time where just based on an industry mix that’s growing, more and more workers are going to need post-secondary education.”

The report includes statistics from Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, western Missouri and northern New Mexico, in addition to Nebraska. The figures come from a combination of the economic forecasting company Global Insight and the U.S. Census.

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