Community colleges deal with dropping enrollment

With more jobs available, fewer students are interested in getting a degree at Kentucky community colleges. System leaders say statewide, 81,000 students are expected to enroll this fall. That’s a 25 percent drop, or 70,000 fewer than peak enrollment in 2011.

The college system says it’s had to cut expenses by laying off teachers and cutting programs.

Western Kentucky Community and Technical College student Virginia Blanco has big plans.

"I’m planning to go to Murray State," she said.

She’s earning an accounting degree.

"There’s more opportunities," Blanco said.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System saw a jump in enrollment during the recession, but now the system is seeing a drop in the number of people seeking a degree.

Administrators say at West Kentucky Community and Technical College say there is a silver lining.

"As opposed to losing students, we’ve really just shifted," said Nate Slaton, WKCTC’s Vice President of Enrollment Management.

Slaton says the school is now seeing more workforce students who need a different focus.

"They’ve got jobs. Now employers need to train them in hazardous material training or workplace safety training or food safety," Slaton said.

He says for now it’s a matter of reallocating resources. 

"We’ve been really fortunate," Slaton said.

WKCTC administrators say they’ve been shifting staff from courses for degree-seeking students to the workforce programs. They haven’t had to make any layoffs. Since the shift in enrollment, the college has only suspended some programs that have had less then 10 students. None have been suspended this fall.

The state college system is encouraging students to finish their programs and earn their degree In response to declining enrollment. 

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