As reported in the Washington Post, student enrollment is falling at most of Maryland’s and Virginia’s community colleges, echoing a national trend in a sector of higher education closely tied to the economy. MACo follows issues relating to community colleges and their funding because county governments share financial responsibility for these institutions. In the past, some counties have contributed more than 40% of their community college budgets.
The declines are steep[er] in Maryland. Data from the Maryland Higher Education Commission show that there were 139,198 students in the state’s 16 community colleges in the fall. The total was down 4 percent since 2012 and nearly 6 percent since 2010.
According to the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC), the news is positive, marking a return to work for many in our economy. In addition, enrollment trends have gone up and down several times in the past years, always making a comeback. As described by MACC’s Research Director Brad Phillips,
Community colleges tend to be the most receptive to workers who have either been laid off or want to retool. That said, in the last 7 years, we’ve increased 16,408 in enrollment, which is more students than attend UMBC. That’s 13% growth. The colleges are also experiencing a drop in recent high school graduates which will pick up again 2017. Even though we have dropped currently, we will continue to grow well into the future.
The Washington Post also shares some specific statistics on the enrollment drops for Maryland counties since 2010, revealing that enrollment is not declining in every county,
At Montgomery College, the largest community college in Maryland, fall enrollment was 26,155. That was nearly 5 percent lower than the head count the previous year, but it was about the same as the total in 2010. . . Prince George’s Community College enrollment was 13,574, down slightly from fall 2012 and down 8 percent since 2010. The largest enrollment drop for a public two-year college in Maryland since 2010 was 24 percent, at Baltimore City Community College. [However,] Howard Community College had the largest gain in that time — 7 percent.
In the Governor’s budget proposal this year, he provides $223 million to community colleges in FY15. While this is a 5% increase ($10.7M more in direct aid) compared to FY14 funding, it is actually less of an increase than would have been dictated by the legislatively created funding formula. For more information on this topic, see our previous post on Conduit Street, Budget Plan Limits Growth in Community College Funding.