Connecticut's College Enrollment Tops 200,000 Mark
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
November 17, 2010
For the first time ever, enrollment in Connecticut's public and private colleges and universities broke 200,000 this fall, driven by soaring numbers at community colleges and at eight of the state's private colleges, including four for-profit schools.
Overall, the increase from fall 2009 to fall 2010 was 3.8 percent, bringing the total number of students to 200,624.
The numbers were announced at a meeting of the state department of higher education's board of governors Wednesday, but the positive news was tempered by warnings that the surging numbers might soon take a dip, as the college-age population declines in the next few years.
"We have been riding a demographic wave of high school graduates, but the demographic wave is about ready to turn," Michael Meotti, higher education commissioner, said after the meeting.
The enrollment increases reported Wednesday were dramatic: 5.7 percent in the community colleges, 5.3 percent at Quinnipiac University, 20.2 percent at St. Joseph College, and 34 percent at Goodwin College.
Among the for-profit independent colleges, Post University had one of the greatest percentage increases in enrollment — 52.2 percent —- mostly the result of the Waterbury university's online program. Post's online program has grown from 179 students in 2004 to 5,500 this fall.
Post was reaccredited by the board of governors at Wednesday's meeting, but the massive growth of the university raised questions for some board members.
"We are not concerned because we see something bad going on," Meotti said, "but rapid growth, just like rapid decline, is a sign that says you need to dig a little deeper into what's going on and ask are they prepared to handle rapid change?"
Brian J. Flaherty, vice chairman of the board of governors, said after the meeting that the state might want to review its accrediting and licensing procedures to ensure effective assessment of the growing number of for-profit and online schools.
William H. McDonald, vice president for academic affairs at Post University, said the state is correct to be concerned. "This concept of online is new and within that there are these terrific variations between well-run high-integrity institutions and really sort of fly-by-nights. … We welcome the review and the scrutiny."
Ultimately, Post University hopes to serve 20,000 to 30,000 online students, though doing so would require expanding the faculty, said Francis X. Mulgrew, president of Post's online program.
The other for-profit programs that saw growth this year were Lincoln College of New England in Southington — formerly Briarwood College — up 24 percent; Lincoln College of New England in Suffield, up 18.6 percent; and Sanford Brown College — formerly Gibbs College — up 59.1 percent.
Meotti said the figures show that Connecticut residents are particularly interested in "non-traditional higher education options" such as one- and two-year, career-focused programs in fields such as allied health and manufacturing.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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