Sunday, April 4, 2010

HCC’s Enrollment Continues to Break Records

By Jasmin Carmona
Staff Writer

This spring, HCC set a new record for enrollment with a total of nearly 6,000 students, an increase of 14.6%

The enrollment profile for the spring semester says the total number of enrolled students is now at 5,903, while last spring there were 5,152 students attending HCC.

This makes HCC the fifth largest of the 12 Community Colleges in Connecticut and the second highest in enrollment increase.

The majority of students are continuing, and of those students 94.8% are seeking degrees. Almost 12% of student enrollments are new students. For many, this is their first time in college. Of these students most are female, and part-time students are leading in enrollment.

The number of students enrolling doesn’t seem to be slowing. “We might even have more on the way come fall,” said Registrar Jim Connolly. Connolly said this “increase was expected, so I’m not really surprised.”

Due to the economic situation, Connolly had figured more students would be enrolling since so many unfortunate people lost their jobs this year alone.

“Now that our school has put in new buildings, it is bigger and becoming a more quality school,” he said. “People are noticing the changes and the school is affordable, so I can see why we are getting more and more students.”

HCC President Anita Gliniecki agreed in an email that the reasons for enrollment were planned and intentional. “The college has worked to understand and implement strategies to increase student retention semester to semester,” she added. She also has noticed an increase in the number of students attending full time.

“I can only assume that the poor economy is resulting in more students pursuing educational programs to improve their ability to attain or retain a job to transfer to a baccalaureate program without debt,” Gliniecki said.

According to Mark Herzog, Chancellor of the Connecticut Technical College Community System, student enrollment is now more than 55,000 throughout the community colleges, a 38% increase from what it was 10 years ago.

Approximately 65% of the student population is over the age of 22. In addition, the recession has caused many adults who have lost their jobs to enroll. Many of these older students are staying longer and graduating from the system, while younger students end up transferring to state schools in the University system.

Yet the increase is not all good. Herzog said, “Services have not kept up with enrollment because of cutbacks in state funding.” These cutbacks have caused libraries to close early, as well as support labs, leaving students at a disadvantage.”

Herzog also mentioned that “we’ve lost 177 staff this year that serves the students.”

HCC has to ensure that the buildings are kept clean as more students are using them. The college needs to ensure there is sufficient parking as well.

Gliniecki said, “As HCC has more students, this does result in the need for more student services such as advising, counseling, tutoring, financial aid and library access.”

“The fact that we keep growing to me is indicative of the pent-up demand from the years before Beacon Hall was opened, when the college could not offer any additional courses due to lack of classroom space,” she added.

Lauren Martin, a student at HCC, is currently in her fourth semester and has been working for Student Activities for two semesters. Martin said, “I’ve definitely noticed the increase of students attending and think it’s great.”

“I love HCC and think it has so much to offer,” she added. She also believes the increase has to do with the economy. “More people are going to school now to have a higher level of education.”

“Students can use Housatonic as a tool where they are able to save in order to finish,” said Counselor Marilyn Wehr. The main goal is to give students the opportunity they need in order to graduate. Wehr said, “Here students have an affordable alternative.”

Many students have mentioned to Wehr the friendly atmosphere they have encountered at HCC. “There is an intimate setting at our school, and a lot of our staff takes time to really help everyone as much as possible,” she said.

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