College experiences enrollment upswing |

College experiences enrollment upswing

William Ferchland

By numerous accounts, Lake Tahoe Community College is doing well.

Enrollment, the lifeblood of any school, which came in at 1,673 full-time equivalent students for the 2006-’07 school year, exceeded officials’ expectations by nearly 100 students.

After several years of declining student numbers enrollment is on the upswing. Lori Gaskin, vice president of academic affairs and student services, credited the emergence of the college’s online courses.

“Our online classes have opened up access,” Gaskin said.

Last summer there was 13 online classes offered and 136 students taking such classes. This summer there are 32 online classes with 345 students enrolled.

Although the number of online courses will climb to 40 this fall, Gaskin said there will be a limit on such offerings.

“We’re not going to turn into an online campus,” she said.

In addition, the college reached an agreement with Alder Inn owners Joseph and Kira Balius to convert the Ski Run Boulevard motel into student housing. Since the college doesn’t have dorms the lack of student housing is a longtime complaint from students and parents out of the area.

Joseph Balius said five rooms already taken by students, has a handful of applications and has fielded 63 phone calls (he’s counted) from people inquiring about the student housing.

“The response has been real good,” he said.

In September, the college, one of the smallest community colleges in the state, opened its 27,031-square-foot library complex. Also a popular fire academy opened at the college this year which provided training and drills for students to begin a career as a firefighter.

Still, Gaskin said many students juggle work and family life while pursuing an education at the college. At $13 per unit, classes are still affordable but any increases could shut the door on students with a tight budget.

Gaskin favors a inexpensive fees compared to increasing them to provide more support for students.

“If we price it so high … I just worry about the message it sends to our students,” she said.

A community college’s success shouldn’t be focused solely on how many students transfer to four-year schools or graduate with associate degrees since many students take a class or two to pursue an interest or hobby, Gaskin said.

At the end of the 2005-’06 school year, 30 students transferred to University of Nevada in Reno, 18 went to the University of California system while 39 went to schools within the California State University system.

Last month the college awarded 178 associate degrees to graduating students.

One worry for college officials is the effects, if any, from the Angora fire on enrollment.

“We have a positive and bright future ahead if we can get past this,” Gaskin said.

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