High Enrollment Strains 2-Year Colleges

February 9, 2011  |  

(Wall Street Journal) — Community colleges, long regarded as the most accessible realm of higher education, are becoming more difficult to access thanks to record enrollments combined with belt-tightening by state legislatures.  A jump in enrollment helps to explain why Miguel Morales failed to get a seat in intermediate algebra this spring at Johnson County Community College in suburban Kansas City, Kan.  “You used to be able to wait until the last moment,” said Mr. Morales, a 43-year-old part-time student at JCCC, where enrollment has reached new heights the past two years. “But it’s getting to where you have to go online at three in the morning to get a spot in some classes.” (A JCCC spokeswoman said few if any classes close out in a matter of hours.) In a survey to be released Wednesday by the Pearson Foundation, a nonprofit educational think tank in Mill Valley, Calif., about 20% of 1,434 community college students interviewed in November reported difficulty enrolling in required courses for the fall semester. About one in three had trouble winning a spot in desired classes.  Those problems are mild next to enrollment caps that could be imposed in California and possibly other states. Budget cuts in California could force its community-college system—the biggest collegiate system in the U.S., serving about 2.76 million students—to turn away about 350,000 applicants next year.

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