Community college enrollment at record level

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Many students experience rejection as they try to get into their college of choice. As a result, some students are choosing instead to start their college career at a community college.

In Utah, students and community college faculty believe economic conditions and students feeling unprepared for a four-year university are key factors in the recent growth of community colleges.

Salt Lake Community College is the largest educational institution in the state, serving 62,000 students during the 2010-2011 school year, and is experiencing record enrollment this year.

Joy Tlou, director of public relations for SLCC, said the college is the largest it has ever been.

“In fall of 2006, our enrollment three weeks in was 25,129,” he said. “In fall of 2010 it was 33,983. That’s about a 26 percent increase in five years.”

Tlou said economic conditions over the last few years have played a large part in people choosing to attend SLCC before transferring to a university.

“With economic downturn, two-year schools get a lot of attention … but it’s not just those that aren’t able to afford it,” he said. “It causes everyone to practice better fiscal responsibility.”

Despite its growth, SLCC has been able to maintain a classroom average under 20 students.

Small class sizes may be one of the reasons students are finding community colleges a good steppingstone between high school and university.

John Densmore, a BYU student from Bessemer, Ala., studying athletic training, started his college career at Lawson State Community College in Alabama.

“For me, I didn’t want to jump straight into a university, I wanted to get into college and kind of ease my way in,” Densmore said. “Classes there are easier, I think, because they are trying to make it possible for students to go on to other universities. It’s kind of like an in between.”

Anders Conk from Oceanside, Calif., is another BYU student who decided to take the community college route before transferring to BYU. Conk said Mira Costa College in California helped him get into BYU. He said it was his plan to start there and end up at BYU.

“It was just down the road from where I lived,”  he said. “I’m glad I did it the way I did. It was a good transition to college for me.”

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