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State fiscal woes hit colleges.

Persistent state fiscal problems have created a domino effect that is taking a toll on college enrollments, a survey by the American Council on Education (ACE) has found. While the number of college and university students nationwide rose slightly in the fall of 1992, total enrollments in seven of the 19 states that were surveyed dropped or held steady, compared with fall, 1991. In addition, enrollments in four-year colleges fell in 10 of the states. Enrollment losses affected private as well as public institutions. Three states reported steady or lower registration in both sectors. Five states had fewer students or the same number in their independent institutions, while another five experienced a reduced enrollment only in the public sector.

The survey found a strong correlation between state appropriations for higher education and college and university registration. Total enrollment held steady or dropped in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio. Of those seven states, five appropriated less money to higher education than two years ago and one provided the same amount. Only Mississippi posted an increase, at three percent. Conversely, among the seven states that recorded the largest enrollment increases--Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas--six appropriated more funds for the 1992-93 fiscal year than in 1991-92.

Two-year institutions are experiencing the most growth, with 14 states reporting increases in this sector ranging from one to five percent. Many higher education officials attribute this to the weak U.S. economy, which has caused many workers to seek new skills or return to school due to a limited number of available jobs. "Community colleges offer low-cost higher education, and people are starting to realize it," explains Greg Smith, director of research and planning, Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System.

David Pierce, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, sees several reasons for the enrollment increases at two-year institutions. "Community colleges have worked diligently on their academic programs, emerging as colleges of choice rather than of last resort." He also points out the schools' career orientation and flexible class hours. Students can "save money and get a solid, teacher-oriented college education by choosing a community college for the first two years of higher education."
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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