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The State of MA Community Colleges: Enrollment Up, Resources Down

August 19, 2010

BOSTON - As tough economic times continue in Massachusetts, more folks are seeking enrollment in higher education. This rising demand is especially true at the Bay State's 15 community colleges.

Joe LeBlanc, president of the Massachusetts Community College Council, says enrollment is up by 22 percent over the last four years, and at the same time, state funding for community colleges has declined.

"It's putting us under quite a lot of stress, because we have the same number of full-time teachers that we had five, 10, even 20 years ago. There's no growth there at all."

In order to absorb more students, the schools are keeping longer hours at some locations, and have also hired more part-time staff, LeBlanc says. For example, one part-time teacher sometimes teaches one type of class at several locations. This approach isn't ideal, he adds, because it stretches the entire staff to the limit and creates instability for students.

LeBlanc also warns that the system faces sharp cuts going into the fall semester. The state is expected to cut funding by 9 percent to 12 percent. He says that with higher education more important to the workforce than ever, it's time to make some policy changes.

"They tend to cut us all the same, so they cut U-Mass the same as the state colleges, the same as the community colleges. But if our schools are growing like crazy, it seems we ought to receive, instead of a cut, an increase in aid."

The average cost for a student to attend a community college in Massachusetts is $3,000 a year.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA