Bad economy has been a boon for 2-year colleges

Bellingham HeraldDecember 15, 2008 

BELLINGHAM — Businesses and schools across the state are shutting their doors, and people are living in fear that their jobs and savings will disappear.

But community and technical colleges across the country are thriving, with record enrollment.

"It's ironic," said Bellingham Technical College President Tom Eckert. "When the budget gets reduced and the economy shows signs of not being as robust as it was, we get busier."

Since fall 2007, the 34 community and technical colleges across Washington state have seen enrollment increase the equivalent of 8,000 full-time students. This translates into even more individuals, since many community and technical college students attend part time.

In Whatcom County, BTC set an enrollment record this fall, with the equivalent of about 2,100 full-time students, or about 3,800 individuals. This is an 8.5 percent increase over fall 2007.

It was a similar situation at Whatcom Community College this fall, with the number full-time equivalent students jumping by about 300 to 3,731.

"We're in the process of enrolling for winter quarter, and we're seeing a tremendous increase of foot traffic," said Kathi Hiyane-Brown, president of WCC. "And already before new students have an opportunity to enroll, we have continuing students coming (back) at a rate greater than an 8 percent increase."

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