Fewer students enrolling in southern Illinois community colleges

Fewer students are hitting the books at local community colleges in southern Illinois.

Shawnee Community College reports enrollment is down more than 6 percent, while Southeastern Illinois College is down nearly 2 percent. John A Logan reports numbers are up from the fall, but still down 9 percent compared to this time last year. Rend Lake is the only school on the rise, with 6 percent more full-time students. Schools say it’s cause for concern but a trend they saw coming.

No matter the major, classes at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg are filled with students who are eager to learn.

"There’s, like, great people around. I just feel at home," said Josue Urbina, an art student at SIC.

"Tuition’s really low, which helps out, because college is getting more expensive every day. And also, it’s a good transition, rather than going straight from high school to a university," said Tanner Dutton, an accounting student at SIC.

"It’s closer to home, and I love this college. It’s a great community college," said Kaylan Rockett, a criminal justice student at SIC.

This semester at SIC, there are fewer students walking the halls, but school officials say they weren’t surprised by that. They say there are a number of reasons behind the trend, from state budget impasse related funding cuts to smaller high school classes. SIC Dean of Student Services Chad Flannery says enrollment has dropped nearly 2 percent since last spring.

"Our high schools have trended down. Over the past few years, we’ve had three of the smallest classes in a decade. That really affects our enrollment," Flannery said.

Flannery says the school prepared for the drop by making cuts where they could. He says they’ll continue to keep programs and teachers in place, so students coming in leave their halls with a strong education and, hopefully, a degree.

Many colleges say they refuse to cut programs or teachers in order to keep standards high for incoming students. Schools are calling for the state to pass a budget, so they can keep funding in place for programs.

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