State News

Economics lesson: High gas prices create dropouts

Posted June 20, 2008

— Students at some of North Carolina's community colleges are changing their schedules - some are even skipping a semester - because of soaring gas prices.

The Herald-Sun of Durham reported Friday that students at some colleges told school officials they had to drop out of summer school because gas prices made their commutes too expensive. Other colleges are trying to ease the burden by suggesting that students take online classes or alter their schedules and come to campus fewer times a week.

"I've never had any student come to me to tell me that gas was an issue until this summer," said Wanda Maggart, Durham Technical Community College's senior vice president of institutional and student support services.

North Carolina Community College System spokeswoman Audrey Bailey said the dilemma is going to continue into the fall semester.

"We know that the gas prices are creating an especially difficult situation for our students," Bailey said. "We suspect more students will take classes via distance learning or they'll bundle classes."

She said some colleges including Wake Technical Community College and Durham Tech have better access to mass transit, but commuting problems will likely magnify in rural areas.

At Durham Tech, college officials partially attribute a decrease in summer enrollment to the gas costs. They said 2,321 students enrolled this summer, a 4 percent drop from the 2,429 students who enrolled last summer.

"Everyone complains to me about gas prices," said Christine Wright, Durham Tech's student body president. "Some of my former classmates had to drop out of their classes or just not enroll in summer.

"It's really hard, especially when I know the potential that a lot of my friends and anyone else on campus can have here on campus," she said.

Class attendance has also dwindled this summer, part of which students attribute to gas prices hiking the cost of a commute, said a Durham Tech freshman.

Four weeks ago, 20 students attended Kayla Turner's Spanish Class. Now, about eight show up, the 19-year-old told The Herald-Sun.

Kenny Lockamy, who drives to Durham Tech from Person County, said going to class costs him about $15 a day round trip. Earnings from his part-time job all go toward buying gas, he said.

"(That's) just to come to school, and that's if I don't do any other driving," Lockamy said. "I empathize with (other students) because I practically almost dropped out this past semester."

Durham Tech is encouraging students to carpool and schedule classes so more are on fewer days, counselor Nan Dernar said. Online enrollment also is up 14 percent from last summer, she said.

Catawba Valley Community College, in Hickory, has even set up a Web site to help students find carpooling partners.

"(Students) are telling me, 'If I can only be here one or two days out the week and I can take the rest of my classes online, I would be able to take these courses in the fall,'" Dernar said.

Wake Tech's chief academic officer Bryan Ryan said the college has tried to minimize the affects of high gas prices on the students by adding campuses and offering more online classes. As a result, they've seen increases in enrollment, he said.

"Even though prices are up for gas, we've actually reduced the commute to class that many students had to make by putting a campus near where they are," Ryan said.

The national gas price average Friday was $4.07, up from $2.99 a year ago, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.



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  • bluewind Jun 20, 2008

    Any excuse to fail will do....sometimes to get something that is precious, (like an education!!) sacrifices are involved. Like eating out less, perhaps shopping at Goodwill, no Starbucks, ANOTHER job. Stop whining and complaining and MAKE it happen!!!

  • kal Jun 20, 2008

    When I was in college and had financial troubles-I got another part time job. Yeah I worked 40-60 hours a week AND handles a full load of classes.

    Where there is a will there is a way. Car-pool, DATA bus, TTA van pool-it's out there you just need to look in order to find it

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jun 20, 2008

    It's easier to drop out of school and collect welfare than it is to work hard to succeed in life.

  • PowderedToastMan Jun 20, 2008

    "Where there is a will, there is a way. Sounds like some people prefer to take the easy way out."

    Yelena- you hit the nail on the head. I couldn't agree more.

    Everyone have a reat weekend.

  • Yelena Jun 20, 2008

    Did the students who drop out think about carpooling? Or distance education? Or giving up driving around with friends on the weekends to save gas? Or Bike riding? Or giving up fast food?

    Where there is a will, there is a way. Sounds like some people prefer to take the easy way out.

  • HJRVS Jun 20, 2008

    No worries, this is a temporary problem. When Obama takes office next year he will provide free education, free lunch, a free Prius and free Starbucks for all! I might actually vote for "O" so I can stop hearing the horror stories about soup line America. The day he inaugurated the media will drop all of these stories. Of course then we will have to be subjected to endless fasion reports of Michelle. Oh wait, that's already happening too.

  • PowderedToastMan Jun 20, 2008

    citizen782 - you don't seem to have anything to contribute other than bashing other people. You come across as a pompous know-it-all without making any real valid points yourself- becoming a hypocrite yourself.

    People who make excuses like dropping out of school because gas prices went up are the same people who will come up with a lot of other excuses in life to ditch responsibilities.

  • PaulRevere Jun 20, 2008

    The people defending these drop-outs are probably the same people who insist that everyone makes the team if they try out because it's just too hard to actually make the team, and it isn't fair not to let us all "win". The real world is a cruel task master and we're becoming a nation of short-sighted whiners!

  • issymayake Jun 20, 2008

    Isn't the article referring to community college students? Most of you all speak of the students as if they are traditional 18 - 24 year olds, when that very well might not be the case.

  • WRALblows Jun 20, 2008

    As long as were attacking people's personal responsibility - here's a personal one:

    "We are undergoing a major site redesign"

    "Our release date is set for Sun April 26th, 2008"

    Procrastinate much Doug? How's that working out for your income? Now please, spend some more time telling everyone else how they need to be managing their time and money. Hypocrites make me sick.