Enrollment at the Community College of Allegheny County is down 7.79 percent, but it might not be all bad.
As of this week, 17,641 students were enrolled for the college’s fall semester, compared to 19,131 students last September.
The college points to two reasons for the declining enrollment: the recession and high school graduation rates.
During hard economic times, many workers look to change careers and enroll in community colleges to fill an educational void, causing a spike in student enrollment.
CCAC spokeswoman Elizabeth Johnston said the enrollment isn’t dropping, but leveling.
“Whenever you have an uptake in the economy and the economy starts to improve, what we find with enrollment for community colleges is that it actually drops,” she said. “What we’re finding now is really a readjustment to our pre-recession levels of enrollment.”
Johnston said lower high school graduation rates across the state also impact the college’s enrollment.
“We have a smaller pool of candidates from which to draw for student enrollment,” she said. “All of the colleges are having to adjust to this factor.”
Between 2011 and 2012, Pennsylvania’s high school graduation rate slid from 82.7 percent to 80.5.
Lowered enrollment also means less revenue.
CCAC’s Board of Trustees approved a request Thursday for proposals for bond counsel services so the college could find the best credit or loan option for about $10 million.
Johnston said the numbers might look bad, but lower enrollment in community colleges are a sign of a stronger economy.
“While it can sometimes look like bad news to us,” she said, “it can sometimes be positive news for our students because that means they are getting the employment that they need to continue and feed their families and for their own family’s economic prosperity.”