Students choose community colleges as universities head online

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COVID-19 has created a large shift from the way students learn in the classroom to learning from home. With summer college classes underway, it has made some students change their minds about how they want to learn.

While the class of 2020 had big plans for their future, the journey of some graduates may look a little different.

With many universities across the country mostly offering online courses, it has some students asking, “Why pay for a four-year university right now?”

College representative at GTCC said they’ve seen a 4 percent increase in summer enrollment and a 28 percent increase in the number of full-time students. Forsyth Tech is also seeing a positive trend in enrollment.

“We are up 8 percent for our summer semester. I think that’s in large part because we have a whole cadre of classes available in the summer. We are doing most of that online,” said Janet Spriggs, president of Forsyth Tech County Community College.

Online courses are what is making many college students reconsider whether it’s worth the financial strain to enroll in a four-year college in the middle of a pandemic.

“We also are attracting a lot of high school students and students who are at universities who are home during the summer or maybe came home early because of COVID and they’re here just keeping themselves moving forward,” Spriggs said.

To offset the increase in students, Forsyth Tech has added more adjunct professors as well as additional sections to popular courses.

Another big sell for community colleges right now is the ability for freshman to live off campus.

“A lot of people are worried about room and board, so that’s another good thing about going to a community college, I wouldn’t have to worry about that,” said Emily Nielsen, a graduate at Randolph Early College High School.

Nielsen is transferring her credits to Eastern Carolina University.

“We’re doing it in mini-semesters. So, we’ll have eight-weeks of classes that were usually in 16-weeks,” Nielsen said.

While she is nervous to make the move in the middle of a pandemic.

“I’m kind of worried about next semester just to see what everything happens, but I’ve also taken online classes before,” Nielsen said.

For community colleges, the uptick in enrollment numbers is about something bigger than that.

“We are beginning to end the community college stigma,” Spriggs said. “People are recognizing that for many students, community colleges should be a first choice instead of a last resort.”

Spriggs said they are anticipating a second wave of the virus and they hope to have all in-person classes complete before Thanksgiving.

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