- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia’s nine community and technical colleges have lost more than 5,000 students since 2010, according to higher education officials. The state’s four-year colleges have also seen enrollment decline, but not as sharply.

The community and technical colleges decline has put enrollment at just over 21,000. The 20-percent enrollment drop is primarily related to economic ups and downs, with students leaving classrooms when they find jobs.

According to enrollment data, two-thirds of the system’s students are 21 and older. More than 30 percent are older than 30.

“We are really susceptible to market indicators,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor of West Virginia’s community college system.

The number of students attending four-year schools in West Virginia has dropped 5.3 percent since 2010, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports (https://bit.ly/1Tu1KeG).

Like two-year colleges, enrollment at four-year institutions generally reflects the economy, said Neal Holly, vice chancellor for policy and planning for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. When the economy is at a low point adult students go back to school, and when it rebounds they return to the workforce, he said.

Unemployment in West Virginia, at 6.9 percent, remains the highest in the country. Despite that, enrollment declines have started tapering off.

“It was the smallest it’s been in years,” Tucker said of 2015’s decline.

Despite enrollment dips, the state’s community and technical colleges have increased the number of degrees awarded.

In the past five years, the system has awarded 63 percent more degrees. It also has given out more career and technical certificates. More than 70 percent of those who earn a degree from one of West Virginia’s community and technical colleges secures employment.

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Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, https://www.charlestondailymail.com

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