Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 4, 2012

Fast-growing trend will be difficult to maintain

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — The good news is Ashland Community and Technical College is among five of Kentucky’s community colleges ranking in the top 50 fastest-growing public two-year colleges as of 2011.

The not-so-good news is that the upward trend does not seem to be continuing and ACTC will have to plan carefully to keep its enrollment high, college officials say.

The ranking comes from U.S. Department of Education data comparing college enrollments from fall 2010 to fall 2011. The rankings were published in Community College Week, an independent publication that covers two-year colleges and technical schools.

ACTC ranked 24th among colleges with enrollments between 2,500 and 5,000. Its fall 2011 enrollment of 4,932 represented a 5.2 percent leap over the 4,688 students enrolled the previous fall.

Also on the list in the same enrollment category, Hopkinsville Community College was fifth with a 9.2 percent increase and Maysville Community College was 44th with 2.6 percent higher enrollment.

Bowling Green Technical College and Somerset Community Colleges, both in the 5,000- to 10,000-student enrollment range, were sixth and 13th respectively in that category. Bowling Green had a 9.2 percent increase; Somerset’s was 7.4 percent.

The publication noted that after seven years of growth enrollment dipped nationally, and that among institutions still showing increases, the percentages were lower, suggesting a softening in enrollment growth.

Declining enrollment where the recent trend had been toward swift growth could be a sign of the improving economy, the publication said.

The enrollment jump was impressive but unlikely to be duplicated this year, said ACTC President Kay Adkins.

The federal government is tightening controls on Pell Grant recipients, shortening the amount of time they will have to receive the aid. The government also is checking academic progress to make sure students are on track to earn their degrees. If they are not, the aid is discontinued.

Driving ACTC’s enrollment increase was an all-time high in dual enrollment plus a significant increase in training programs for specific businesses and industries, ACTC spokesman John McGlone said.

The coming year will be pivotal for ACTC, Adkins said. ACTC has a strategic enrollment management team analyzing data and planning future programs and services.

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System saw the reversal in the enrollment trend coming over the past year and a half and its colleges are refocusing to meet the changing needs of younger students, McGlone said.

Among them will be more on-line course offerings and a 24-hour, seven day a week call center which will be introduced in coming months.

The other good news is that community colleges by their nature are flexible, according to Adkins. “Community colleges are very equipped to reorganize and repackage programs to meet changing needs,” she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2652.