Wake Tech reaches record enrollment

August 16, 2013 3:25:00 PM PDT
Friday was the first day of classes at Wake Technical Community College, and the school is bursting at the seams.

Enrollment at community colleges across the state is down, but Wake Tech is booming with a record 21,000 students enrolled for the fall semester. Leaders say 96 percent of seats at the state's largest community college are filled.

School leaders say it is a combination of a growing Wake County population and backing from local leaders and bond money.

"Wake Tech has been able to grow, in part, because this county has invested in capital improvements of that college. As they are able to expand, the capacity students are coming," NC Community College System's Jennifer Haygood said.

Enrollment at Wake Tech is up more than 6.5 percent over the last year. Statewide, community college enrollment dropped this year by about 2.5 percent.

Plans are in the works for more online classes and three new buildings at Wake Tech's northern campus. A sixth campus is planned for RTP.

On Friday, Governor Pat McCrory chimed in on the importance of community colleges in the state's economic recovery.

"If we do not have the talented workforce then we're not going to either keep the industry, retain the industry, or grow the industry," McCrory said.

An improving economy is driving enrollment down at many community colleges across the country. In North Carolina, only 10 of 58 schools saw an increase this fall, a large drop from the recession when statewide enrollment swelled 30 percent.

"That was never going to be a sustainable number. Just like the stock market may have a run up and then it corrects. Our enrollment had a spike and is correcting and is now returning more to historic norms," Haywood said.

With the drop comes less enrollment money in the state budget recently signed by the governor. Wake Tech said it plans to keep growing even though the boom may be over.

"I think Wake Tech will continue to buck that trend as long as Wake County continues to grow. It's imperative that we keep up with the growing population here," Wake Tech's Dr. Gayle Greene said.

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