US rural community colleges hit by economic upturn

Expert points to ill effects of ‘countercyclical’ enrolment

December 5, 2013

US rural community colleges face a battle to survive in the face of declining state funding and falling enrolment, an expert has warned.

J. Noah Brown, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Community College Trustees, told Times Higher Education in a podcast interview that the “huge increase” in community college enrolment during the recession had ceased, leaving many institutions at risk of closure.

“If we know anything in our sector it’s that our enrolments are countercyclical to the economy,” Mr Brown said, pointing to demand from jobseekers seeking to improve their skills during downturns. 

“As the economy begins to turn around…we’re seeing a decline in enrolment,” he added.

This, coupled with recent cuts in state funding, would leave some institutions fighting for survival, he predicted. State and local funds allocated to community colleges “have been declining…for a number of years. Where a college may once have got 40 per cent of its support from the state, it may now be receiving 12 per cent.”

The pressure would be felt most acutely by small institutions, he argued.

“About two-thirds of our community colleges are based primarily in rural areas. These are very small colleges with 400 or 500 students,” Mr Brown said. “I’m worrying…about those institutions’ ability to survive in a student market that may be declining, as well as a market where we’d do well to stabilise public funding.”

His warning comes after a survey of state community college directors by the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa’s Education Policy Center found that although many expect “modest percentage increases in state appropriations” next year, declining enrolment would mean “less overall tuition income”.

The 2013 National Survey of Access and Finance Issues concludes that while “the worst of the budget cuts for all public education sectors may be over”, recovery to pre-recession levels is “a long way off”.

Visit Times Higher Education Podcasts

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard