Colorado Mountain College enrollment jumps

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Scheduling conflicts and packed parking lots aren't always a bad thing. Just ask Colorado Mountain College-Alpine Campus officials.

This fall, the Steamboat Springs community college has experienced an 8 percent increase in enrollment of students taking core credit classes, said Brian Hoza, head of student services at the school.

The number of degree-seeking students is up about 80 from last year's figures, Hoza said, and that number is expected to increase in January, when the campus typically admits an additional 40 students. Officials anticipate total fall semester enrollment -- including community members who take non-credit classes -- to top 1,800 once winter-specific courses begin in November and December.

"We're kind of bursting at the seams right now," campus dean Dr. Robert Ritschel said Wednesday. "But it's a good problem to have."

The school's increased numbers forced campus officials to juggle schedules and extend the academic week through Friday afternoon, Hoza said. On-campus dorms were full by the middle of June, and for a while, the school had three students to a room. Parking availability also has been a concern.

"All of our campus facilities have been tighter," Hoza said. "With more students on campus and more full-time, degree-seeking students, there are parking issues. We haven't run out, but we've had to work a little bit for people to find spots during the week."

More and more students are biking to class or using public transportation.

While the enrollment increase has caused some headaches, its benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, Hoza said.

The school is offering more courses to an increasingly well-rounded student body, which has brought greater diversity to classrooms and student organizations, he said.

"The whole climate is a good one," Hoza said. "The students are extremely involved both in and out of the classroom."

The number of student groups and clubs on campus has nearly doubled, Hoza said, from a typical year of 13 groups to more than 20 this year.

The spike in enrollment is attributed to several factors, including the struggling economy, tuition increases at most higher education institutions across the state and country and a guaranteed credit-transfer rule that helps ensure hours earned at one state school transfer to another state school, Hoza said.

School officials hope the credit-transfer rule will result in a higher student retention rate as students realize core classes they take at community colleges are on par with similar courses offered at four-year institutions, he said.

The Alpine Campus doesn't have aspirations of extensive growth, despite the increased attention it has received this fall. The campus takes pride in offering small classes in a community environment and officials don't want to lose the benefits reaped in that atmosphere, Hoza said. They do, however, hope to offer more diversified courses in the future, particularly those relating to fine arts.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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