Connecticut Post

Enrollment continues to rise at public colleges, universities

Linda Conner Lambeck, Staff Writer
Published: 11:56 p.m., Monday, October 4, 2010

HARTFORD -- A still sour economy and the ever-rising cost of a private school tuition can only mean one thing.
The state's public colleges and universities hit an all-time high enrollment this fall with 127,171 students, officials from the state Department of Higher Education confirmed Monday.

Leading the charge were the state's 12 community colleges where tuition -- even with a 6.4 percent boost in 2010-11 -- is still just $3,406 this year.

Growth was seen across the board at the community colleges, but was strongest at Three Rivers  in Norwich, where enrollment was up 13 percent to 5,161.

Not far behind was Housatonic Community College  in Bridgeport, where the 10.5 percent gain over 2009 to 6,197 students set a school record.

Since moving downtown in 1997, enrollment at Housatonic has gone up 134 percent. Two years ago, the college doubled its size with a second building.

"Today, more students are considering community colleges as families tighten their financial belts," said HCC President Anita Gliniecki . "They realize that they can cut their tuition bills almost in half by going to a community college for two years, and then transferring to a four-year school."

It is the second consecutive semester the college has set a record for enrollment. Last spring's enrollment of 5,903 was a record-setting figure as well.

Statewide, Commissioner of Higher Education Michael P. Meotti  said this is the ninth straight year the state public system has shattered previous records. The community college system saw a 5.7 percent increase in enrollment. The University of Connecticut 's enrollment went up 1.8 percent. Tuition at the state's flagship university for in-state resident students living on campus is $20,968.

At the Connecticut State University system, enrollment rose less than one percent. Of the four universities that make up the CSU system, Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, saw the biggest gain, with a 1.3 percent boost to 11,963 students this fall. Full-time tuition and fees at Southern for commuters is $8,050 a year, $13,124 for resident students.

Joseph Musante, a university spokesman said Southern's full-time undergraduate population this fall, 7,494, is a record high. He said officials worked hard to not only attract students but keep them, by introducing a freshman experience program that resulted in a higher retention rate.

The number of transfer students is also way up, Musante said. Most are community college grads looking to turn their new associate's degree into a bachelor's degree.
Meotti said the overall 3.2 percent growth of public college enrollment in the state this fall comes at a time when the pool of traditional-aged college students is leveling off. Across the state, part-time enrollment is fueling a large part of the increase. Graduate student enrollment is down.

State officials plan to release preliminary headcounts at private colleges in the state later this month.