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RCCC sees enrollment decline

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Enrollment at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is down nearly twice as much as what officials projected earlier this month.
During the first day of class Aug. 15, spokeswoman Paula Dibley told the Post the college forecast a decline of 4.5 percent.
Gaye McConnell, vice president of student services, told the Board of Trustees Monday that enrollment is projected to dip by 8 percent, with the total student headcount dropping by 7.2 percent.
“Things are different then we expected,” President Dr. Carol Spalding said.
Preliminary numbers show the college with 2,809 full-time students enrolled this fall, down 243. Total headcount fell by 533 student to 6,835 this year. The figures do not include the college’s continuing education students.
Prior to this fall, enrollment at the college has climbed every year since 2007, racking up 52 percent increase over the past four years.
“We’re disappointed we can’t serve more students, but we probably couldn’t keep that kind of growth up forever either,” Spalding said.
McConnell attributed the decline to a variety of factors.
“We’re trying to make sense of it,” Spalding said. “I think a lot of people are pausing in light of the economy right now.”
The state budget calls for a $10 per credit hour increase in community college tuition across the state. In-state students now pay $66.50 per credit hour.
Students who receive federal Pell grants to attend school did not get any additional money to offset the tuition hike, McConnell said. More than 4,500 students are receiving Pell grants this year.
McConnell said employment rates also fells in the months leading up to enrollment.
“That would suggest there is some economic turn with people finding employment,” she said.
Rowan-Cabarrus isn’t the only community college experiencing a decline in enrollment this year.
Only three of the state’s 58 community college’s — Asheville-Buncombe Technical, Cape Fear and Wake Technical — show growth, according to preliminary data.
Despite this year’s drop, McConnell said enrollment is still up by about 24 percent from 2008.
Dibley said the college plans to offer a renewed effort on recruit and is looking forward to October’s minimester registration for eight-week classes ranging from business to cosmetology.
Bond update
During Monday’s meeting, the board also approved architects for the college’s $12 million bond referendum projects.
The board selected Moseley Architects, Ramsay Burgin Smith Architects and Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects as their top three choices for the relation of the fire training ground.
Board Chairman Carl Short said two of the architecture firm chosen brought in national consultants to assist with plans for the fire training facility, which has more unique specifications.
“We feel like we are not only going to get a good facility here, but we are going to have one of the best in the country when it’s done,” he said.
MBAJ Architects, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and Gantt Huberman Architects were the top picks for the North Campus additions and renovations.
“We were extremely impressed by the No. 1 firm for the North Campus addition,” Short said. “They came armed with really good ideas.”
Irvin Newberry, chairman of the building and grounds committee, said 34 firms responded to each proposal when the college advertised.
“The large numbers show the architects need the work and responses included both local and regional firms,” he said.
The approved architects will be recommended to the N.C. Office of State Construction for contract negotiation.
Spalding said it typically takes three to six weeks for their approval before work can get under way.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
Facebook: facebook.com/Sarah.SalisburyPost

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