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Most area community colleges report more students signing up for class

Students hang out one College Dupage's many commareas Tuesday February 5 2013. Unlike many community colleges areC.O.D.'s enrollement is up.

Students hang out in one of College of Dupage's many common areas on Tuesday, February 5, 2013. Unlike many community colleges in the area C.O.D.'s enrollement is up. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Roll call

Here are the official 10th day figures for full-time spring semester enrollment at some local two-year colleges.

College of DuPage

2013: 15,438

2012: 14,786

Waubonsee Community College

2013: 5,860

2012: 5,660

Elgin Community College

2013: 6,453

2012: 6,607

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Updated: March 7, 2013 6:19AM



A lot of college students are sticking close to home, according to recently compiled enrollment numbers from local schools.

Official 10-day head counts are on the rise overall at both College of DuPage and Waubonsee Community College. Elgin Community College has seen its part-time student body, the largest segment of enrollees at most two-year schools, grow over the past year as well.

“It’s great news, especially since we were up in the fall,” said Earl Dowling, associate vice president of enrollment management at COD. “I don’t think it’s by accident.”

The head count rose by 3.8 percent in the tally done for the current spring semester, now coming to 15,348 students attending COD for the equivalent of a full-time schedule.

More than a year ago, Dowling said, the Glen Ellyn campus narrowed its focus closely on addressing students’ needs and interests more collaboratively and comprehensively, teaming departments together to meet that mission.

“It really was a campus-wide emphasis on how we treat that student,” Dowling said. “For students who, because of finances, really want to hang that baccalaureate degree on their wall, families are saying, ‘With all the news about jobs, with all the news about the cost of a four-year degree, do we really want … to pay for the amenities of a residence hall? Is it that important? And I’m going to have a large class in English or chemistry or philosophy.’”

Smaller class sizes and lower costs are priorities for a lot of families. The American Association of Community Colleges puts the average yearly cost for tuition and fees at a four-year state university at $8,244, while the corresponding expense at a local public community college is $2,963.

Many students opt to register at Waubonsee to get a full bang for their buck, Jeff Noblitt said. The WCC spokesman cited affordability and convenience among the factors that have contributed to the Sugar Grove campus and its satellites’ experience of continued growth for the past several years.

Enrollment gains were more than 3.5 percent over the number a year ago, now totaling 5,860 full-time students.

“We have seen significant increases, really for not just the past few years but going back even further, to before the economic downturn,” Noblitt said, alluding to the pre-recession boom that found Kendall County had become one of the fastest-growing areas in the country.

“And then, of course, when the economy took a downturn, we found that many students chose to start their college careers at the community college level before transferring to complete their four year degrees.”

Waubonsee was ready when that happened, having expanded its locations to campuses in Plano and downtown Aurora. Noblitt said the added convenience has gone over well.

“Obviously there are numerous factors that have led to the increase in enrollments that we’ve been seeing,” he said.

At COD, there also has been a concerted effort to open the doors wider, Dowling said. Open house events and information nights bring in high school students and other prospective enrollees and their parents to familiarize them with the school’s layout, offerings and resources.

When asked later what they like about COD, factors cited most often include affordability and atmosphere.

“The one thing that everyone says to us as they walk out the door is ‘This feels like a college campus.’ And you can see that. We’re up 3.8,” Dowling said. “We’re a community college, but we flip that and say we’re really the community’s college. And we take that very seriously.”



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