By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
After two years of significant growth, enrollment is down at Mississippi’s two-year colleges, according to preliminary data released Thursday.
Total enrollment for Mississippi’s 15 community and junior colleges this fall is 85,530 students. That is a decline of 3,165 students, or 3.6 percent, from last year’s totals.
The decline comes after two years in which enrollment increased by more than 7 percent. This year’s total is still 12,273 students, or 16.8 percent, higher than it was in September 2008.
“That is not a surprise because our enrollment has boomed over the last three years and there has to be a settling effect,” said Eric Clark, executive director of the state community college board.
Itawamba Community College’s 7,392 students are 1,001 fewer than one year ago. The 12 percent decline follows spikes of 5.6 percent last year and 15.6 percent in 2009.
One factor may be the job opportunities provided by the opening of the Toyota plant and its suppliers, said ICC Vice President of Student Services Buddy Collins.
Also, students who may have enrolled two years ago when the economic downturn hit could have finished their degree and rejoined the workforce. Collins said that despite the enrollment decrease, the waiting list for dormitories was longer this year than last, indicating that more of the decrease may be due to non-traditional students.
Enrollment at Northeast Mississippi Community College decreased by 10 students.