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Florida Students Opting for Community College in Rough Economy

Florida’s community colleges are experiencing a sharp increase in enrollment while public universities and private colleges are seeing a decrease.

Because of the state of the economy, more and more students are turning to the option of enrolling in a reasonably-priced community college instead of enrolling in a much more expensive state or private university.

“As it stands right now, we have almost 39,000 students registered for the fall term, and we began fall registration only two weeks ago,” says Dulce Beltran, registrar at Miami Dade College – the country’s largest community college. “And a quarter of the courses are already closed with almost two months to go before fall term begins.”

These numbers mean that enrollment is up almost 60 percent from last year.  This sudden increase has forced the administration to hire new instructors and increase class sizes.  The downside is, even though community colleges run on an “open door” policy which guarentees anyone with a high school degree or GED acceptance to the institution, classes are filling up so fast that Beltran estimates 20,000 to 30,000 student won’t get all the classes they need and 5,000 students may not be able to sign up for any classes at all for the fall semester.

Funding for community colleges are also facing a threat of cuts.  Ten years ago, the Florida state legislature funded more than 75 percent of community college’s operating budgets.  These days the state supports about 50 percent of the operating budgets.  To make up for the cuts many schools are increasing tuition costs.  Broward College near Ft. Lauderdale raised their tuition 8 percent.

Florida’s 11 public universities have imposed caps on freshmen enrollment because of the budget cuts.  These tough ecomonic times are forcing more and more students to settle on the quality  of their education.

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