Enrollment is continuing to grow at MCC-Blue River and the economy is playing a large part in it.

Enrollment is continuing to grow at MCC-Blue River and the economy is playing a large part in it.

“This is part of a national trend. More people are seeing the value of what the community colleges can offer in terms of lower tuition, smaller student teacher/student ratios, and the opportunity to develop and enhance their professional skills,” said Cheryl Carpenter-Davis, associate dean at MCC-Blue River. “Families have chosen the community college to begin their education and then transfer to a four-year university.”

This fall’s enrollment at the Eastern Jackson County community college is 4,211 students, up 489 students from last fall. Just down the road in Lee’s Summit, MCC-Longview is experiencing record-breaking enrollment, with more than 8,000 students enrolled for the fall 2010 semester. That number of students has not been seen since the late 1980s.

“Today, Missouri’s community colleges educate more in-state undergraduate students than any other sector – a change from the past,” said Zora Mulligan, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association. “In the past, public universities had the largest numbers of such students.”

Carpenter-Davis said with the increased enrollment is coming a different type of student. With the current economic climate, more students are deciding to stay at home for a couple of years before moving onto a four-year college. In addition, she said there are more dislocated workers who are looking to pursue a new career.

“An increased number of students applied for financial aid this year,” she said. “We had a 24-percent increase in financial aid and 16-percent increase in students from the A-plus program. Many are dislocated workers looking to restart their education to pursue a new career, some with baccalaureate and graduate degrees. Eighty-eight percent of our students are 18-24 years old.”

The draw for many to MCC-Blue River is the opportunity to earn a two-year associate degree before transferring. In addition, the community college is home to the police and fire academies.

“Many students complete the associate of arts degree and plan to transfer to a four-year university,” Carpenter-Davis said. “Students pursuing an immediate career are drawn to our business, computer science and police and fire academy programs, which allow the student to complete a certificate within six to 12 months.”

To handle the increased enrollment, additional faculty have been hired in mathematics as well as adjunct faculty and full-time staff to teach other classes. Faculty was also hired to support student learning in the Academic Resource Center and library.

“You can get an affordable, quality education close to home. Our highly qualified faculty and staff facilitate student success and degree completion,” Carpenter-Davis said. “Our state-of-the-art facilities provide a welcoming environment conducive to obtaining the critical thinking and high tech skills required in today’s jobs.”