Students packed community colleges during the recession, as enrollment hit a historic high. Many campuses saw annual growth of more than 10 percent, which they strained to accommodate. Never mind parking spaces, some places were running out of classrooms.
Then the economy began to recover, and many would-be students went to work. By 2011, the enrollment surge started to subside, but rather than relief, that brought concern. Even though more students put pressure on facilities and resources, they came with tuition dollars—a growing share of total revenue as state monies dwindled. Now community colleges face a new stress: Keep the tuition coming in by managing enrollment like never before.
For decades, the community-college sector expanded almost automatically as it helped broaden access to higher education, says Peter S. Bryant, a senior vice president at the consulting firm Noel-Levitz. But waiting for students to show up is no longer enough, says Mr. Bryant, who has seen more business lately from community colleges. “There’s a growing realization,” he says, “that there has got to be a much more strategic approach.” <Read more.>