Itawamba Community College is educating more students today than ever, which is something that can be said for nearly every year during the past decade.
For proof of this growth, look no further than the pages of the Nov. 30 issue of “Community College Week,” in which the Fulton-based college was named one of the fastest growing community colleges in the nation with enrollments between 5,000-9,999.
The nationally available data used for this analysis is the Fall Enrollment Survey of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System administered by the United States Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. It includes only counts of students enrolled in courses that lead to a postsecondary degree or other formal award and receives data from more than 7,000 institutions.
It’s a source of great pride for ICC President Dr. David Cole, who claimed both increased awareness of higher education and a greater array of options available for those who seek it have greatly contributed to the school’s near-constant population increase.
“I think there’s a greater awareness among people that, to be successful, there has to be higher education beyond the high school level,” Cole said. “To have a career that is both financially and personally rewarding.”
According to Wayne Sullivan, vice-president of planning and development for ICC, the school has been on the grow for decades.
“I’d have to go back and look at the history, but I cannot think of any year that we have not grown,” Sullivan said, citing his 31-year history with the school and the numerous changes that have had to take place there to host so many students as proof of the school’s snowballing student population. “We’ve had to do a lot of renovating and shifting around to accommodate that increased enrollment.”
Currently the school claims an enrollment of 7,804 students and touts a 15.7 percent overall enrollment increase over last fall’s 6,769 student head count. According to vice president of student services Buddy Collins, the school has been pushing its recruitment hard and offering an increasing array of financial aid options, such as recently-implemented tuition guarantee programs in all five counties the school covers.
“Students at ICC can combine onsite and online instruction in any academic or technical discipline,” Collins said, “and this enables especially adult learners to work toward a degree, which is vital in today’s work force. Often when the economy is slack and there are not a lot of jobs, there is growth in enrollment, but with a shift in the types of industries within our area, a lot of people are interested in learning the necessary skill sets to be considered for employment.”
“More people are seeking higher education and job skills training in order to be competitive in the work force,” Cole said. “With the tuition guarantee program and other financial aid opportunities, college is being made accessible to anyone who has the desire to achieve.
“It’s giving opportunities to people when other opportunities are not available right now,” Cole added.
More and more
Although the magazine article primarily concerns the growth in student population, it is worth noting both ICC’s Fulton and Tupelo campuses are physically growing as well. In Fulton, the growth has been tremendous. The school opened the Boggs Humanities Building in April 2005 and currently is constructing a new girls dormitory, Itawamba Hall, which is scheduled to open in the fall semester.
“We had a waiting list of about 700 students this year,” Sullivan said, touting the need for a new dorm. “This should put us in pretty good shape for the near future.”
Although the college’s future plans are dependent on the swing of the economy, Sullivan said there are always a bevy of plans under way. He said the college’s future construction plans include a new allied health building for the Tupelo campus, which would put the school’s nursing program near the hospital and health services building.
Future plans also include the addition of a general classroom building for the Tupelo campus.
“We’ve kind of developed separate niches for each campus,” he said.
According to Cole, the continued growth of community colleges across the nation is a good sign – a viable option for people who want to pursue higher education in an affordable way.
“We’re in our 10th year of steady growth, and we anticipate that it will continue for years to come,” Cole said. “It’s a good time to be in school.”
Contact Adam Armour at (662) 862-3141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times