Local News

Community colleges look to cut summer classes

Posted January 28, 2009 5:08 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Tight budgets could force many of North Carolina's community colleges to eliminate courses this summer, despite rising enrollments.

Enrollment is up 7 percent statewide – about 12,000 students – from a year ago, and Durham Technical Community College officials said their spring enrollment topped their fall numbers for the first time in at least 20 years.

Many of the new students have returned to school to pick up new skills after being laid off.

Keyon Covington and Morey Penn had each been laid off twice in the last six months and were studying environmental technology at Durham Tech with the hope of landing jobs in Durham.

"I'm just ready to work hard – ready to work, ready to get paid," Covington said. "(Being laid off) is very frustrating because, even though the job stops, the bills continue to come."

"I just wanted to do something, learn something new and just see where it takes me," Penn said. "I'm very grateful because, without this right now, I'd probably be a little more depressed."

The students might not have classes to attend in the summer, though, because Durham Tech and other schools could drop courses to save money.

The state already has cut funding to campuses to help ease its budget deficit, and counties facing tight budgets also have reduced their support for community colleges.

State funding doesn't cover summer classes, except for work force development courses geared toward employees at specific companies, said Kennon Briggs, executive vice president of the North Carolina Community College System.

Colleges are looking for ways to make a summer schedule work, and many will likely offer only courses that are in such demand that tuition alone could support them, Briggs said.

Durham Tech will likely offer classes that students need to graduate and cut ones that students take in summer school only to pick up extra credits, President Bill Ingram said.

"There's no road map for these kind of situations," Ingram said. "We are looking very carefully at our summer schedule, and we'll be offering a much more pared-down schedule than we have in past years."