Enrollment Growing Faster at Tennessee’s Private Colleges

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.

The state’s private colleges are growing faster than public ones, government data show.

Enrollment in the state’s private, not-for-profit colleges jumped 30 percent from 1995 to 2005, while enrollment in public colleges increased by 17 percent, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Dr. Claude Pressnell, president of Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents 32 private four-year universities, said lottery scholarships beginning in 2004 helped make private colleges tuition more affordable.

“When you provide a funded scholarship choice for Tennesseans, then that gives (students) the ability to choose an institution that best fits their academic and social needs,” Pressnell said. “In other words, instead of going to their second- or third-choice institution because of cost, they’re now able to choose their first choice.”

From the beginning of lottery scholarships in 2004 to 2005, private college enrollment grew 4 percent, compared with public colleges’ 1 percent increase.

Phil Cook, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment at the private Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., affiliated with the Church of God, said the increase may be attributed to more students seeking religious-based colleges.

“We’re finding that families are looking for (religious-based education) specifically,” Cook said. “In fact, that’s the reason they’re coming to us.”

State officials say private colleges’ faster growth could be caused by a rise in “for-profit” institutions colleges mainly geared to working adults and offering accelerated, career-specific courses.

“They are pulling off some of the growth that would have gone to community colleges,” said David Wright, associate executive director of policy, planning and research for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

The University of Phoenix, the country’s largest for-profit university, operates four campuses in the state.

The 2007-08 state budget increased the maximum lottery scholarships from $3,800 to $4,000 per year, with extra funding available for students with higher grades.

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com



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