- Read the article from the Winston-Salem Journal (p. 10) of Society. According to this article, community colleges in North Carolina are seeing an increase in enrollment due to job layoffs. How would a sociologist view the reasons for the increase in enrollment? What would a sociologist say about how society and the economy influenced individuals’ choices to pursue higher education?
Back to School: In Poor Economy, Laid-off Workers Flocking to Community Colleges
By LISA O’DONNELL
February 10, 2009
Scores of laid-off workers are going back to the classroom, leading to an increase in enrollment in community colleges across North Carolina. Historically, people have flocked to community colleges during recessions to learn new job skills. This time around, they are taking classes in such fields as health care and technical education,
administrators said. “At Forsyth Tech, and community colleges in general, we have an inverse relationship with the economy,” said Gary Green, the president of
Forsyth Technical Community College. “When you get a downturn, the job market tightens up and people look to community colleges to prop themselves up and get the skills they need to get back into the work force or to solidify their place in the work force. That’s what we’re seeing occur.” Mary Sue Antonucci of Pilot Mountain returned to the classroom last year because her job painting houses was not providing enough
income. She is pursuing an associate’s degree in art and hopes to open her own business. “I realized, of course, that the job was not going to sustain me,” said Antonucci, 50. “I knew I would not be able to take care of myself if I had no degree.”
Although official full-time enrollment figures for degree-seeking students aren’t yet available for the spring semester, administrators estimate that 12,500 new students enrolled in the state’s fiftyeight community colleges this academic year, a 6.2 percent jump in enrollment from last year. Typically, more students enroll in community colleges in the fall, but not this year, said Kennon Briggs, the executive vice president for the state’s community-college system. “Most companies gave their layoff notices in
January and February rather than October or November,” Briggs said. “We think for the first time in history that our spring-semester enrollment is going to be bigger than the fall’s.” At Forsyth Tech, the number of students in fall 2008 increased 9.5 percent compared with fall 2007. For the spring semester, enrollment is up about 11.4
percent compared with last spring, Green said. Colleges are being forced to serve more students with less money, Briggs said. A few months ago, the governor’s office asked
the community-college system to trim 5 percent —$45 million—from its budget for the current fiscal year. “What makes this a challenge is that we’re growing at that rate at a time when we’ve been asked to return 5 percent of our current budget because state
revenues have not materialized,” Briggs said. To compensate for the loss in funds, some colleges have increased class sizes and asked their faculty to teach more courses, Briggs said. Forsyth Tech is dealing with the enrollment increase by offering some classes at 7 a.m. and adding part-time instructors, Green said. Class sizes have not increased for the most part, Green said, because it would reduce the quality of instruction. “We’ve had to work with the facilities we have and the personnel resources we have,” he said. Both Briggs and Green said they expect enrollment to continue to expand for at least another academic year based on the bleak economic forecast. . . .
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