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U.S. community colleges see decline in enrollment, not in Nebraska

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 7:21 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Student enrollment at community colleges is down 10% nationally but not in Nebraska. With things headed in the right direction to get out of this pandemic, community colleges we spoke with expect numbers to go up even more.

This fall, campuses like Southeast Community College will be booming with students, which isn’t anything unexpected. SCC was down the 2020-2021 school year, but only by 4%, which is much better than the national trend.

10/11′s Kamri Sylve spoke with staff both at SCC and from Central Community College who tell her there’s a good reason why enrollment across the state is staying on the high end.

“Our goal is to meet them where they’re at,” said Mike Pegram, Dean of student Enrollment at Southeast Community College.

For students at community colleges, that’s what they said they need since many of them are working full-time jobs, raising families or even trying to learn English for the first time.

Dr. Marcie Kemnitz, G.I. President at Central Community College said 75% of their enrollment is made up of part-time students. “Students are coming here taking less than 12 credits,” she added.

Nebraska community colleges like SCC and CCC said jobs in certain industries like nursing, welding, technology, agriculture and transportation remain in high demand, which allows for continuous enrollment in new students and brings returning ones back. “There still continues to be a nursing shortage. There still continues to be a need in the community for that. Welding for example, continues to be an area that is needed regardless of where we’re at, and particularly, in our area where a lot of manufacturing is occurring,” said Dr. Kemnitz.

SCC said recent renovations like new facilities and advanced technology on their campuses may be what’s keeping enrollment up and making a difference. “We have a health science building on the Lincoln campus and opened an academic excellence center in Beatrice. We have a new diesel building on the Milford campus,” Pegram said.

One of biggest factors keeping students from furthering their education is money, which CCC says is an area where they step in to help. “About 73% of our students receive scholarships from us, Central Community College scholarships,” Dr. Kemnitz said.

SCC said keeping community college flexible and easily accessible for students is key, “What we can do to make college work for our students is really important for what we do here,” Pegram said.

Admission for both Southeast and Central Community Colleges are still open. SCC says so far, they’re up by 2,000 more students for the 2021 fall semester compared to 2020.

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