Area community colleges see enrollment increase

While SIU saw another enrollment decline this semester, community colleges in the area have seen an enrollment increase.

Colleges such as John A. Logan College, Southeastern Illinois College and Shawnee Community College saw more students in the classrooms this fall. Some college representatives attribute the spike to an influx of high school students who chose to attend community college. One reason Chancellor Rita Cheng said enrollment is down at SIU, though, is because community college enrollment has decreased over recent years and Illinois’ high school graduate population is down.

Steve O’Keefe, director of community relations and marketing at John A. Logan College in Carterville, said the college’s enrollment increased from 6,257 to 6,400, which is a 2.29 percent increase. He said a major reason for the increase is because more high school graduates have enrolled at the college.

While the high school graduates may have increased, though, the number of schools the students are coming from has decreased. O’Keefe said students have sent transcripts from 408 Illinois high schools this semester, which is down from last year’s 424.

O’Keefe said he doesn’t have the exact number of students who transferred to the college from SIU this semester.

“We always generate a large amount of students who transfer from SIU,” he said. “I don’t think this year was vastly different from any other years. We don’t track that information.”

Angela Wilson, marketing coordinator at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg, said the college does not track transfer student information either, but its full-time enrollment is up 3.34 percent from last year as of Monday. Enrollment numbers were not available on the college’s website, and Wilson said she did not have them available for disclosure.

Dee Blakely, dean of student services at Shawnee Community College in Ullin, said enrollment is up by 100 students, but the college’s transfer student enrollment is down this semester.

“Our enrollment is up this year, but our numbers do show that our credit hours are down by 6 percent,” Blakely said. “We have more students this year, but they are taking fewer credit hours, and our online enrollment is up by 7.4 percent.”

Blakely said she cannot confirm an exact transfer student enrollment percent decrease, but she believes many students have taken time off from their education to work.

“I believe that more people decided to make work a priority this year over schooling, which would explain why enrollment is down at some schools, why students are taking less credit hours and why our online enrollment is up,” she said.

While some Illinois community colleges have experienced enrollment increases this fall, some college representatives in Missouri said they expect enrollment to decrease.

St. Louis Community College expects a 9.4 percent enrollment decrease, St. Charles Community College in Cottleville, Mo., is down 5.5 percent and Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo., is looking at an 11.6 percent decrease, according to an article published Monday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Rachel Emig, office support specialist in SIU’s registrar office, said the office does not keep information regarding students who transfer out of the university.

Students who attended SIU and transferred to a community college cite different opinions and reasons for their transfer.

Janice Henry, a sophomore from Harrisburg, said she transferred to Southeastern Illinois College this semester because of issues with SIU’s bursar office.

“I wasn’t aware of the change with financial aid and bursar until early August, so since I couldn’t register for class at SIU, I transferred to SIC so I could finish my general courses and get my financial aid,” she said.

Janaya Leigh, a senior from Evansville studying criminology and criminal justice, said she transferred to John A. Logan after her first semester at SIU. She said she returned to obtain her bachelor’s degree.

“Logan is just more affordable and offers the same education,” Leigh said. “Because of its size, there’s more one-on-one interaction with the instructors.”

Although information is unavailable regarding students who left to attend another college or university, Cheng said in her Sept. 5 State of the University Address that the number of students who transferred into the university this semester fell by 13.5 percent compared to last year.

Cheng also said the number of Illinois high school graduates peaked in 2008.

“The statewide decline in high school graduates is reflected in our region’s high schools,” Cheng said at the address. “Added together, we are recruiting in a smaller pool of prospective students. That is all the more reason it is imperative that we employ better strategies and more aggressive recruitment programs.”

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