Southwest Colorado Community College is experiencing growing pains as enrollment in the colleges programs is up nearly 54 percent over last years numbers.
Approximately 312 students have enrolled in classes at the college, an increase of roughly 110 students over fall 2010. The increase has filled some courses to capacity and required school officials to add new courses to accommodate the students.
West Campus President Shannon South said there is no clear reason for the jump in enrollment, but a number of factors may have contributed to renewed interest in the college, which started classes Monday.
I really dont know why enrollment has gone up. There is really nothing specific that I can put my finger on and say this is why we have more students, South said. We have been looking at creative ways to offer more classes in the community and find ways where we can accommodate more students, and that might be paying off.
The most popular programs at the college this year include cosmetology, automotive and welding. While the college has offered automotive and welding courses since before the merger with Pueblo Community College in 2009, cosmetology is a relatively new program and has drawn a fair number of students.
We had to open up another section of cosmetology this year, South said. We didnt anticipate it, but we have 18 students on a new track in cosmetology. So we now have four groups of students going through that program.
South said she has observed more students taking general education classes at the college in hopes of transferring to a four-year university. High school students are a large part of that student population, including students at Montezuma-Cortez High School who are able to take college-level business courses at the high school, and students from Dove Creek High School who are bused to the college to take a variety of courses.
We are really excited about the Dove Creek students; that is a first, South said. The principal in Dove Creek has made a commitment to providing those resources to those students.
While each demographic of students is a small group on its own, the many different groups served by the school have combined to bring in larger numbers.
We are just building a little at a time and pretty soon you look up and realize we have a lot of students here, South said. In the last two days, people have been walking around going, Wow, you can really tell that the enrollment has increased. The parking lot is full, especially in the morning, and there are students in the halls. There is some nice energy going on.
South said the college is continuing to pursue options to better serve the larger community and strives to listen to the needs of area residents. There are, however, obstacles to offering large numbers of classes outside the confines of the college.
One of our challenges as we look at offering classes in the community is we have to find the space to do that and it has to be affordable, she said. We also need technology for a lot of our classes, and that is a huge challenge. But I think the important part is knowing that (PCC President Patty Erjavec) is listening to the community.
One clue that community voices matter was evident last week when crews from the college replaced the colleges sign, which had the predominant Pueblo Community College name, with a new sign that highlights Southwest Colorado Community College. Complaints were heard across the community early this year when the Pueblo sign was erected at the college, causing many to wonder if the college was losing its local identity.
The sign was changed because (Erjavec) listened to what people were saying, South said. We want to be able to respond to our community, and I think that as we do that, we will continue to grow.
On the Net: Southwest Colorado Community College, www.pueblocc.edu/Campuses/SCCC/
Reach Kimberly Benedict at firstname.lastname@example.org.