RCC enrollment hits another record

A spike in enrollment is providing a welcome boost in tuition and fee revenue for Rogue Community College as classes resume today.

As of Friday, enrollment had jumped nearly 10 percent — about 600 students — above last year's record fall enrollment of 6,000 students, bringing the total preliminary enrollment to 6,600 for this year.

The added revenue in tuition and fees will help offset state budget cuts, RCC officials said. They initially anticipated some $6.3 million in funding from the state, but the recent and proposed cuts could mean a reduction of $1 million or more.

"The state did an across-the-board 10 percent cut to all state agencies," said Margaret Bradford, marketing and community relations director. "They're considering another cut later in the year when the budget forecast comes in, so the increase in tuition will definitely help us out."

Bradford said economic downturns usually yield higher enrollment for community colleges because of affordable tuition and vocational training.

"We actually don't ask everyone who applies to go here what their reasons for enrolling are, but we do know that the economy has had a big impact on our enrollment," she said.

"When people are out of work, they turn to the community colleges to get re-trained for new jobs or to get better skills at the jobs they have so that they are more competitive when the economy does turn around."

Community colleges across the state are seeing record increases in enrollment, she said.

Higher enrollment, however, can translate to headaches for the students themselves.

Eagle Point resident Karen Guill, who's enrolled at both RCC and Southern Oregon University, said she's finding full classes, limited access to counselors and a shortage of parking spaces.

"Typically, I'm one of the first to register because of my class standing," she said. "This quarter I had to wait a little bit longer due to financial obligations. Because I enrolled later, I found it was a lot more difficult to get the classes I need. A lot of classes are full, even when they have multiple sections."

"And it was never good, but parking in the downtown is really, really bad now. And getting through to a counselor is insane, too."

Guill said she hoped additional classes would be made available.

Medford resident Leanne Ruch said she enrolled at RCC to earn a degree in radiology.

After a stint as a massage therapist ended with back surgery, Ruch now works as a day care provider in order to provide for her family and pay for tuition.

With the worsening economy, Ruch said the best solution seemed to be getting a better education.

"I have to work while I do school, but it's the way to get into doing something different," she said.

"Nowadays it seems like you have to have a degree in something to get anywhere."

According to RCC financial aid coordinators, the school awarded about $20 million in financial aid during the 2008-2009 school year and $33 million in 2009-10. They predicted $40 million in financial aid would be awarded for the current year.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.

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