Kirkwood faces surge


Nationwide, community colleges have responded to soaring student populations — largely compounded by the economic recession — by capping enrollment.

Kirkwood Community College, with centers in seven Iowa counties, is an exception.

“I can’t imagine [Kirkwood] ever being capped,” said Kristie Fisher, the school’s vice president of enrollment. “We are going to meet challenges as they come to us and continue to fulfill our commitment to the community.”

As of Aug. 20, more than 16,000 students had signed up for classes, a record number that surpasses enrollment for last fall by more than 10 percent.

Kirkwood is not unique in the challenges it faces. Because of the economic slump, community colleges across the nation are experiencing a sudden demand for two-year institutions.

“Any time there is a recession, it causes fear of losing or not being able to get a job, which makes people want to get an education” Fisher said. “Also, a lot of families have tighter budgets, forcing them to choose a community college as opposed to a four-year institution.”

Fisher said Kirkwood officials are responding to the influx of students in other ways. For example, they are bringing in adjunct professors — those who work part-time — to teach new courses.

“There are waiting lists for the courses in high demand, but we are working hard towards giving each student a full schedule,” she said. “This way they can fulfill general education requirements until the classes become open again.”

In addition to scheduling arrangements, Fisher said the school is seeking to help students accommodate in several ways. For example, some grassy areas could become additional parking spaces. Officials also plan to provide support services for students on the first day of class.

Although some students are forced to attend a community college due to financial constraints, some students prefer them over the traditional four-year institution.

Mike Mohr, who plans to attend Kirkwood for his second semester this fall, said he enrolled after initially attending the UI. He said he made the switch because he wanted to explore other classes before deciding on a career path.

Mohr lauded differences between classes at the two institutions.

“Since the classes are smaller, you get to build a more personal relationship with your teachers,” he said. “At the universities, only the discussions are small.”

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