With the souring of the national economy, community colleges are seeing booming enrollment levels across the board. At the same time, however, states are putting higher education budgets on the chopping block.
For a detailed look at the dilemma many CC’s are facing, here’s a report from The Chronicle for Higher Education.
The downturn in the economy has coincided with enrollment increases at many community colleges. Meanwhile, several states have trimmed — or even chopped — appropriations for higher education. Florida, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Tennessee have each cut financing for 2009 by at least 5 percent, according to data compiled by the Center for the Study of Education Policy, at Illinois State University. Alabama and South Carolina have reduced allocations by more than 10 percent.
So far the hardest-hit institutions are those in states with a diminished manufacturing economy or a burst housing bubble, says George R. Boggs, president and chief executive of the American Association of Community Colleges.
Community-college officials have seen this pattern before: History holds that when the economy declines, college enrollments rise. But what worries many officials is that this recession may be long and deep. The ominous signs include a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found that unemployment has reached a 16-year high.
“This is not a short-term problem,” says Aims C. McGuinness Jr., a senior associate with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a nonprofit consulting group that advises states and public-college systems. “This is a time for having a clear mission and making strategic choices.”