Michigan’s Community Colleges See Fewer Students

DETROIT — Michigan’s community colleges are seeing lower enrollment this fall versus a year ago and some students also are taking lighter class loads.

The changes come as federal worker retraining money dries up, the Detroit Free Press reported ( http://bit.ly/nYJkCv) Friday. They also accompany an update in rules governing health care coverage where part-time students may stay on their parents’ health insurance policies.

Enrollment at Michigan’s 28 community colleges is down 4 percent compared with last fall, and the number of credit hours taken is down 6 percent, according to school data collected by the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Some colleges said they have planned related declines in tuition money and budgeted accordingly. Others are cutting instructors.

The state’s No Worker Left Behind program, which gave laid-off workers $5,000 in tuition each year for two years, had helped to boost tuition. More than 130,000 Michigan residents used the program, according to state records. But federal funding to support it has dropped.

The decrease in class loads likely has a connection to the new federal health care rules, said Ron Hughes, the director of enrollment services/registrar at Macomb Community College. Previously, only full-time students were eligible to stay on their parents’ health insurance policy.

In the Detroit area, its counties’ larger populations generally kept the impact on the colleges to a minimum compared to other parts of the state.

Macomb, however, saw a 5 percent drop in credit hours this fall and its enrollment dropped by about 2 percent. Some colleges have seen steeper drops, such as Grand Rapids with an 18 percent decline in students and Lansing with an 8 percent decline in credit hours.

“It’s anybody’s guess what the system is going to do next year,” said David Mathews, president of Southwestern Michigan College.

Oakland Community College was one of the few to show enrollment growth, about 1 percent, but its credit hours declined slightly by less than 1 percent. At Wayne County Community College District, which includes Detroit and some suburbs, enrollment is down about 1 percent.