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Missouri Community Colleges Experiencing Enrollment Growth

October 10, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The numbers can’t be denied: students across Missouri are flocking to community colleges. With 90,390 students attending Missouri’s community colleges, six of the 12 community college systems in the state showing growth of five percent or more and four more showing smaller increases, it is becoming clear that the two-year institutions are in demand.

"In our current economy, getting a degree is becoming both more necessary and less affordable," said Neil Nuttall, president of North Central Missouri College who also serves as president of the Missouri Community College Association's Presidents and Chancellors Council. "Community colleges allow students to get their education at a significantly lower cost, and on a more flexible schedule -- allowing them to continue working while going to school."

According to the Department of Higher Education’s 2007 enrollment numbers, more than half of the Missouri residents currently attending college within the state are enrolled at a community college.

Of the 12 community college systems in Missouri, Ozarks Technical Community College has shown the most dramatic growth, with an enrollment increase of 8.5 percent for fall 2008. The college now is serving 11,116 students, and is at or near capacity at several of its five locations.

Even as it puts a strain on resources, Hal Higdon, Ozarks Technical Community College president, welcomes the growth.

"We have expanded our online course offerings, and have begun offering classes on Saturday to help alleviate the crowding," he said. "Even with careful scheduling, the planned expansions at our Springfield campus and our Branson Education Center are absolutely necessary, and may still not accommodate our growing student population."

James Kellerman, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association, said Missouri is just beginning to recognize the contribution of community colleges.

"Two-year institutions are especially valuable in the areas of technical training, workforce development and providing an affordable, flexible alternative for students who want to save money before completing their degree at a four-year college or university," he said. "As community colleges become more and more crucial to economies and communities across the country, this unprecedented growth is only going to continue."