Minnesota West sees an 11 percent increase in enrollmentWORTHINGTON — The economy may have gone bust, but the enrollment at Minnesota West Community and Technical College is booming, with an 11 percent increase in full-time equivalent students in a single year.
By: Kari Lucin, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The economy may have gone bust, but the enrollment at Minnesota West Community and Technical College is booming, with an 11 percent increase in full-time equivalent students in a single year.
“It’s obviously a sign of the economic times. Any time you have … a plant closure… or layoffs, those folks start evaluating what it is they want out of life, and many of them want to change their careers. So they have to go back to school to retool,” said Gary Gillin, Minnesota West’s Dean of Communication and Enrollment.
On the 10th day of the new school year, nearly 200 students have joined the ranks at the college, with the expectation of yet more students as the semester progresses.
“Obviously it brings in revenue that we weren’t anticipating, and it’s going to help in these tough budget times. It will help us down the road in the next tough years that we’re going to face, financially,” Gillin said.
Due to budgetary deficits at the state level, Gillin anticipates no new money for schools in the next biennium.
“The only way to offset losses is an increase in enrollment, so the increase in enrollment was very, very welcomed by the college,” Gillin said.
Not all of the new enrollees are displaced workers. Minnesota West has also seen an increase in recent high school graduates and students taking online courses. More than 700 students are taking online courses only at Minnesota West for the fall semester.
“It allows a student to work toward a degree, and maybe they just want to take a couple of classes … it just creates opportunities our students didn’t used to have,” Gillin said. “They can access classes at their own convenience, not necessarily on our schedule.”
The college recently changed its recruitment emphasis, visiting with students in high schools, work force centers and agencies, and is seeing a large increase in first generation college students. Two of its long-term goals are recruiting larger numbers of under-represented students and veterans.
The school responded to the increase by opening additional sections of certain classes.
Particularly popular are programs in power line work, power sports, and health care programs training nurses, nursing assistants, radiation technicians and surgical technicians.
Some students have not yet been able to get into their chosen programs, but have instead begun to get their general education credits out of the way while they wait.
Enrollment will likely continue to rise, Gillin said, because some classes begin in the middle of the term and many short-term training opportunities are available.