Riverland enrollment increases

Published 10:56 am Friday, March 6, 2009

Enrollment at Riverland Community College this spring has increased by 4.4 percent from a year ago.

According to a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system news release issued this week, an influx of new and part-time students has boosted enrollment at state colleges and universities by 3.7 percent.

The number of new students across the state is up 8 percent from last spring, and part-time enrollment has increased by 5 percent, the release stated.

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Specifically for Riverland, enrollment has increased from 3,044 students in the spring of 2008 to 3,178 in the spring of 2009.

Riverland Community College President Terrence Leas said he thinks the increases are coming because of a combination of reasons.

He said the college has been making a major effort to inform the community about the college and its service and programs.

“Then of course there’s also the increasing number of people who are unemployed,” Leas said. “There are dislocated workers who are beginning to consider the college as a way to re-train to get jobs.”

He said the increased enrollment is a mixed blessing. At times when people are losing their jobs, it is shown that community college enrollment increases.

“But on the other hand, we’re glad we’re here to help people re-train and get that next better job,” Leas said. “It’s a really tough time for so many people, but there are lots of opportunities out there if people have the right skillset.”

For example, the college president said, Riverland offers a free program called New Directions, which is intended to help dislocated workers find out what educational programs are available for them and how to get into college. The program, which is put on with the help of workforce centers, is offered at each of the college’s facilities in Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna.

He said he encourages people to attend those meetings or to contact the college to see where help is available.

James McCormick, chancellor with Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, said in the news release that “colleges and universities are key to the state’s economic recovery.

“Although this economic downturn has reduced the workforce here and elsewhere, we also know that Minnesota’s employers will still need more skilled workers in the coming years to replace retiring baby boomers and remain globally competitive,” McCormick said.

The numbers released by the educational system were the official enrollment count of students taking credit-based courses on the 30th day of the spring semester.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system serves about 250,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 140,000 students in non-credit courses, according to the release.