Co-Lin enrollment way up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NATCHEZ — Faced with a spike in enrollment caused by the economic downturn, administrators and students at Copiah-Lincoln Community College are learning to cope with a different way of academic life.

At Co-Lin’s three campuses, overall enrollment is up slightly more than 16 percent, while enrollment at the Natchez campus has increased by more than 100 students from this time last year.

“It’s a good problem,” Co-Lin Vice President Teresa Busby said. “But it can be challenging.”

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With more than 900 students now taking classes at the Natchez campus, the school is strained, Busby said.

“We don’t have enough room,” she said. “It’s forced us to be very creative with scheduling classes.”

Swollen class sizes have forced students out of traditional classrooms and into the school’s conference rooms and lecture halls.

Busby, and Co-Lin’s President Ronnie Nettles, said an uncertain economy coupled with affordable tuition rates at Co-Lin, makes the school a very attractive option for parents and students.

“If I’m a parent and I’m looking at the cost of a four-year university and the cost of a community college, there’s a choice I have to make,” Nettles said. “And right now enrollment (at community colleges) across the state is up.”

Busby said community college is especially attractive for students that want to attend a four-year college and attend Co-Lin to get all of their core credits.

“Once they transfer to a four-year school, they’ll have saved a lot of money,” Busby said. “This is a place where you can get the most bang for your buck.”

Nettles said while the increase in student population translates to an increase in fee payments and more tuition dollars heading to the school, it also increase the school’s operating costs.

“But right now we’re adjusting,” Nettles said.

And the school’s students and faculty are not the only ones who have had adjustments to make.

Busby said her teachers have seen an increased workload and class size.

“They’re doing well, but they’re grading more papers and taking home more work on nights and weekends,” she said.

So much work in fact that Busby is in need of two fulltime instructors for English and biology.

“We’re busy,” she said. “But we can do more with less. That’s what we’re known for.”