If you're planning to enroll in a community college sometime in 2009, be sure to plan ahead. While in the past, late registration may have resulted in students not getting a class or two they wanted, increased interest in two year schools may produce an even more pronounced effect. Community colleges across the country are receiving more applications and admitting more students for the 2008-2009 academic year than ever before, with some institutions reporting percentage growths in the double digits. Many schools are seeing enrollment increases so dramatic that they lack the money and space to adequately accommodate the students turning up on their doorsteps.
Community colleges and four-year state colleges are contending with state budget cuts, declining endowments, and less fruitful fundraising efforts in the face of the worst economic situation in decades. Meanwhile, the cash-strapped and the frugal are flocking to the least expensive educational options available, which are community colleges. Community colleges are also seeing an uptick in nontraditional students, as the unemployed return to school for job training and certification to get back to work. All of this adds up to a situation where more students need seats in classes, college services, and student financial aid than ever before, yet fewer resources are available to accommodate these needs.
While schools are doing their best to find space, add courses and sections, and increase campus-based aid where possible, budgetary difficulties are an unfortunate reality. The economic stimulus bill currently in the works in Congress may help relieve some of this stress, but students should still be aware of potential snags in their college plans. If you plan to enroll in a community college this summer or fall, here are some steps to take: