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Unprecedented enrollment at community and technical colleges

As the economy continues to deteriorate and laid-off workers look to upgrade their skills or train for a new career, community and technical colleges are serving more students this winter and they expect even more students will be knocking at their doors this spring. The system expects to end the year with 9,000 FTES over last year.

Enrollment in the Worker Retraining program—which helps pay for tuition, books and other fees for people who have lost their jobs to train in approved, high demand careers—is up 20% and expected to exceed 8,200 FTES this academic year. This would put colleges nearly 2,000 over the 6,200 FTES funded by the Legislature for 2008-09.

“In our toughest economic crisis since the Great Depression, tens of thousands of Washingtonians are seeking help,” said Charlie Earl, executive director for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. “We are committed to serving them to the extent resources allow, but wait lists are long, faculty and staff are being stretched, and budget cuts are already underway.”

With a student profile that consists of 31% parents, 51% full- or part-time workers, and 10% of high school juniors and seniors in the Running Start program, two-year colleges are serving a broad demographic in a wide range of programs. Workforce education is up 9%, transfer is up 4% and online learning is up nearly 24%. The challenge will be continuing to serve everyone with limited resources.

“We are doing everything we can to focus budget cuts on those functions that do not directly impact students, but with the kind of demand we are seeing, resources are really being stretched,” said SBCTC Board Chair Erin Mundinger. “But I'm confident the colleges will keep their doors open as much as they can while still providing a high-quality education."