ACCC numbers continue to grow

Register Reporter

Allen County Community College is putting the “A-C-C” in access.
For many reasons — from the struggling economy to a new grant program to assist Allen Countians — ACCC is certain to continue its decade-long trend of enrollment growth for its upcoming 2009-10 academic year, said ACCC’s Dean of Student Services Randy Weber. In fact, Weber said, growth at Allen County has never been stronger.
According to preliminary figures, ACCC’s enrollment is expected to rise 8.9 percent in the coming year.
Some of that is due to the continued success of Allen County’s outreach facility in Burlingame and the growing popularity of taking courses online, Weber said. “Enrollment has been growing pretty consistently in those areas.”
But the biggest spike in enrollment is on the college’s Iola campus. Weber estimates on-campus enrollment will be up more than 22 percent when classes begin Aug. 18.
Why the sudden explosion?
Weber listed several explanations, including ongoing state and national budget crunches.
“A lot of families are simply more debt-savvy,” Weber said. “They’re not as willing to take on debt to send their kids to school as they were in the past.”
In terms of affordability, Allen County stacks up favorably in comparison to almost every other school in the nation.
Tuition for in-state ACCC students for 2009-10 is $47 per credit hour, less than one-fifth of the tuition charged an incoming student at the University of Kansas ($245 per credit hour).
The lowest tuition for a four-year college in Kansas is at Wichita State University, which at $149.50 per credit hour is still three times the rate ACCC students will pay.
College trustees have developed another incentive for students to pick ACCC: the Allen County Grant program.
Any Allen Countian who does not otherwise qualify for an ACCC scholarship can receive up to $400 per semester, depending upon the number of hours enrolled.
Students taking three to five credit hours receive $100; those enrolled for six to eight hours get $200; 9-11 hours, $300, and $400 hours for those enrolled in 12 hours or more.
The grant is targeting everyone from high school seniors who otherwise would be unable to afford college to nontraditional students looking to boost their work training with a class or two.
“It may just be somebody looking to bring up their GPA so they can qualify for a scholarship,” Weber said. “The key is access. We want to make Allen County as easily accessible as possible.”
Taking courses via the Internet and registering online can make it even easier, Weber noted, to the point that a student now is capable of earning an associate’s degree without setting foot on campus.
Weber figures the economy has a hand in ACCC’s enrollment growth, as evidenced by the school’s full athletic teams rosters.
“I know we have some athletes who would otherwise be going to a four-year university right now but just aren’t because of the economy,” Weber said. “And with the economy in the shape it’s in, you just can’t help but look at how affordable we are.”
Weber’s prediction earlier this year held true that the college’s dormitories and student apartments would be filled to capacity this fall. As a result, the college is in search of rental units across the area for students.
“I’m usually leery about predicting things like that, but the numbers told pretty early on that our student housing would be filled,” he said.
There’s another potential benefit to the growth. If the college’s enrollment growth exceeds that of the state’s other community colleges and four-year schools, pending cuts in state aid could be mitigated.