Community college enrollment shows slight increase

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This fall’s enrollment numbers at Flathead Valley Community College showed a continued correlation between record-low unemployment rates in the valley and the number of credits students are taking, according to President Jane Karas.

Enrollment for the fall semester was 2,363 students, up from last year’s 2,257 students for fall semester.

Though this semester showed an increase of about 100 students, a count of the total number of credit hours taken showed a trend of students taking fewer courses at a time.

According to Karas, a majority of students are taking advantage of the current job market and working at least one job while going to college, resulting in fewer students having the time to take on a full course load, a minimum of 12 credit hours.

“Job opportunities are there,” Karas said. “Students are able to work several jobs or one job full-time while going to school, so they’re taking fewer credits.”

As a result of demand from employers experiencing worker shortages, increasing local employment opportunities and growing student interest, FVCC programs focused in the health, technology, manufacturing, education and business have shown recent rises in popularity, according to Karas.

Specific programs currently experiencing growth include the school’s practical nursing and registered nursing, physical therapy assistant, radiologic technology, surgical technology and paramedic programs.

Karas attributed the growth in medical programs to the college’s working relationships with local hospitals and physicians in order to adapt its courses to provide the training and information desired by employers.

Other programs in high demand from both students and employers, she said, included information technology, cybersecurity, graphic design, manufacturing, welding, early childhood education and business.

Among transfer students, she noted an increased interest in psychology, theater, music, elementary education, business, computer science, nursing, criminal justice and science.

Programs involving secretarial or clerical skills like keyboarding have experienced a decline in recent years, Karas said, most likely because most employers do not require a degree for that kind of work anymore and most employees enter college or the workforce with an established knowledge of those skills.

“I think we are seeing a continued growth in students coming to FVCC because of the quality education at an affordable cost,” Karas said.

Whether students aim for a two-year associate degree or look forward to transferring to a university following their time at FVCC, Karas said the return on their investment, combined with a quality education focused on helping students get a good-paying job in the Flathead Valley, keeps enrollment on the rise.

For more information on FVCC, visit https://www.fvcc.edu/.

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