“Community College Week” lists Eastern Gateway Community College among the top 5 percent in the fastest-growing community colleges in the U.S.
From fall 2010 to fall 2011, Eastern Gateway’s enrollment increased 10.5 percent, placing it 54th on the list of more than 1,200 community colleges.
In bucking the trend of downward enrollment across the nation and state, Eastern Gateway’s student count places the college in the minority of institutions reporting strong enrollment growth, according to Community College Week, a biweekly publication covering community, technical and junior colleges.
“The college’s strategic move to expand its service district in 2009 is proving to be a sound choice,” said President Laura Meeks. “By adding three counties, the college now serves a population of more than 600,000 which provides us with more potential students. This has added to our main campus base in Jefferson County.”
For the past few years, Eastern Gateway benefited from the recession- fueled growth that affected higher education institutions nationally. But according “Community College Week,” enrollment is declining nationally. Among the examples shown were 5 percent dips statewide in Indiana and Iowa. A silver lining to this news could herald a reviving economy, the publication said.
“When the economy declines, people go to community colleges to hone their skills or develop new ones,” it says. “When the economy revives, people who headed to the classroom instead go to work.”
“We recently added two new programs — Environmental Science and Security — in answer to demands from local industry and business,” she said. “These programs add to our long list of career programs in business, engineering and information technologies, health and public services.
“The value of an associate degree for earning power remains significant as compared to those holding only a high school diploma. We are proud to have growing completion rates for our students who seek an associate’s degree or certificate,” she said. “The Ohio Board of Regents’ 2011 report shows Eastern Gateway’s graduation rate as the second highest for two-year colleges in the state.”
Eastern Gateway continues to improve and add services to aid student success, Meeks said.
“We have redesigned our developmental education courses to aid the pass rate,” she said. “We expanded our Student Success Center where students can receive help in all subject areas and arrange for tutoring. Additionally, we have a 24/7 online support service as well as an early alert system for students identified by faculty as needing extra support at the beginning of the term.”
All these services and good classroom instruction aid the college’s enrollment by boosting the retention rate, the president said.