Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 3, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Community-College Growth

  • Community-colleges in Maricopa County are showing an increase in enrollment this year. Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the Maricopa Community College District, talks about what the district is doing to keep up with the growth.
  • Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick - Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the Maricopa Community College District
Category: Education   |   Keywords: maricopa county community college,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Maricopa county community colleges are seeing an increase in enrollment. Up 14% over last year. One of the colleges seeing the largest is Mesa.

Nadine Arroyo-Rodriguez:
Maricopa community college district are seeing a surge in student enrollment for the first time in years. Enrollment for school year 2009 jumped by more than 2,500.

Sonya Pearson:
Generally in community college higher education you see standard trends that develop when your economy is doing very well, people are employed, the unemployment rate is low, so a lot of people are out working. When you see the economy at a decline that certainly contributes to our enrollment growth. People want to come back for retraining. We have individuals who want to promote our -- or gain additional job security. So we're seeing the effects of that in many ways but we have our traditional population. Anywhere from 18 to 26.

Nadine Arroyo-Rodriguez:
In early 2009, state universities announced the tuition and fees increase. As high as $1,000. At the same time, the Maricopa community college district assured residents they would maintain $71 credit hour. They have options, including online classes with various start dates and shorter class terms ranging from 14 to 18 weeks. And officials say they're seeing a large number of veterans taking advantage of their increased benefits for education.

James Mabry:
Looking at the numbers from the enrollment increases, they were spread all the way across our programs and that was the one thing we were following closely. Where we added about 100 additional sections this semester. We didn't add them in any particular program. We very carefully watched enrollment trends and added as we needed them. We also, you know, led us to hire more adjuncts to staff these classes and also our full-time faculty took additional sections.

Nadine Arroyo-Rodriguez:
Community college officials say regardless of the economic problems, their goal stays the same. To offer quality education.

Ted Simons:
Joining me now is Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, vice Chancellor for academic and community affairs for the Maricopa community college district. This increase in enrollment, expected it?

Maria Harper-Marinick:
It's not unusual to see an increase in enrollment when the economy declines.

Ted Simons:
I was going to say, compare and contrast.

Maria Harper-Marinick:
Very similar, depending on the region in the nation, you may see a larger increase in the enrollment, but this is typically what happens. A variety of reasons. People who come back to college because they need to re-career, enhance their skills, either by choice or required by the employers. But we're also seeing a larger number of students graduating from high school who are choosing college as an option.

Ted Simons:
Because of the price of a major university, the increase in cost there, the surcharges and things, or because of the mat program. Talk to us more about that. It's a way to get my community college and then move on to another college later on.

Maria Harper-Marinick:
I think both. Some people, the economy is impacting their ability to pay for tuition, so I believe the fact that our tuition did not increase, its $71 a credit and that was what it was before too, helps people who don't have the ability to pay a higher price. I do believe the fact we have strong partnerships with the university, primarily ASU, for some people is the best -- ASU, is the best value in town. Get on what we call a mat with Arizona State and then transfer to the university.

Ted Simons:
And also, as we learned in the package and talked about as well, older folks, students, going back to re-career. What are the options available there?

Maria Harper-Marinick:
We have many options. Flexibility is what we do. We provide access to many programs. We have over 10,000 courses offered by the Maricopa colleges. So the need for any program, or course, we have the flexibility of time of day, format, online, more traditional hybrid courses and many of them, actually coming to the healthcare area. That's where we see a large increase of people trying to re-career.

Ted Simons:
Are there also what used to be referred to as vocational classes?

Maria Harper-Marinick:
Absolutely, that's part of our mission as well.

Ted Simons:
Are businesses helping out and saying we want to partner with community colleges because we need this kind of employee?

Maria Harper-Marinick:
Yes. We have those partnerships as well. We've always done that, so we're able to tailor training to the specific needs of employees and business and industry. Many times they're sending them to the colleges to get the training at the colleges, either way, in partnership with on-site training but also the flexibility and ability for people to come to the colleges and enhance their skills or get a new career.

Ted Simons:
Quite an increase in enrollment from all sorts of students. Are you able to handle it?

Maria Harper-Marinick:
Yes we are. We knew because of the economy was declining, we expected growth. We are an open door institution so it is not easy to predict how many students would come. We're still registering students this week. But we expected the growth and were able to adapt. Increasing the number of sections and students in sections and hiring more part-time faculty. But certainly we were able to adjust to the growth.

Ted Simons:
And planning to adjust for more growth, I would imagine.

Maria Harper-Marinick:
Planning to adjust for more growth. Expecting it will probably, as the economy continues to be in the state it is today, that we will see more students coming. We see more high school students coming because of the partnership with the universities so I don't foresee that population declining in the near future.

Ted Simons:
Very good. Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Maria Harper-Marinick:
Thank you for having me.

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