After 'tremendous growth years,' enrollment tapers off at CCCC

Jul. 25, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

As the start of the fall semester at Central Carolina Community College approaches, officials say registration numbers are slightly down — but they don't appear to be overly concerned.

"I'm not shocked that we're kind of flat at this point because we've had three or four tremendous growth years," said CCCC President Bud Marchant, adding that the spring semester's enrollment in continuing education classes was the largest ever. "So as things went on, we knew it would probably scale back. Quite frankly, we couldn't have handled growth if it had continued at that pace. We just don't have the facilities."

The college's Registrar and Dean of Enrollment Jamie Childress said for the past several years, enrollment of about 5,000 students has been typical in the fall. As of Monday, she said, 3,100 had enrolled. She noted that a surge typically happens at the end of July and the beginning of August.

Childress said both the number of applicants and enrollees are down slightly from this time last year, and while administrators like to see growth, the smaller pool is good news for students because there are more seats open. She said some of the college's most popular programs are also those that have caps on enrollment, such as motorcycle maintenance, welding and various health care programs.

Marchant said those classes are capped because of accrediting agencies' requirements or space restrictions, but he also said almost all students who complete health or manufacturing programs find a job right out of school.

"We can't offer enough welding classes," Marchant said. "We've got lots of people who want to take them and lots of companies who want to hire welders."

So while there are advantages to signing up sooner rather than later, such as greater choice in course offerings, Childress said, there are also disadvantages. Students who preregister have to pay by Aug. 2, but students who wait — classes start Aug. 19, but students can add them up until Aug. 21 — may pay when they register. Childress said many students wait because they want or need as many extra days as possible to get their funds together. For the coming school year, in-state students must pay a combined $103.50 in tuition and fees for each credit hour they take.

Programs vary in the number of hours required, even within similar concentrations. The school's nursing assistant program is two semesters long, with students advised to take 17 credit hours for a total cost of $1,759.50 spread out over two payment periods. A nursing associate degree, on the other hand, takes four traditional semesters plus a summer session, totaling a recommended 73 credit hours — $7,555.50 spread out over five payment periods at this year's rates for tuition and fees.

Those five semesters, however, are still less expensive than two semesters at many four-year schools in North Carolina this year. In-state undergraduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill, the state's flagship pubic university, are paying $8,340. Undergrads at Campbell University are paying $26,240, and those at Duke or Wake Forest universities are paying approximately double that rate.

Despite its relatively low-cost classes, CCCC has a financial aid office to help students who have trouble paying, and Childress said students and potential students who haven't yet filled out a FAFSA form — which is required to receive federal student aid — should do so as soon as possible and be sure to indicate it's for CCCC. People with additional questions regarding tuition should call the Lee County main campus business office at (919) 718-7310 or (919) 718-7517.

Also, students who drop a class can receive a 100 percent refund for those credit hours if they drop it by Aug. 16, and a 75 percent refund if they drop it by Aug. 28. Students can add classes from now until Aug. 21, and there are also two shorter sessions, a 12-week one in September and an eight-week one in October, that students can sign up for until the first day of classes. Childress said those are mostly programs taught through online courses.

Anyone who has graduated from a North Carolina high school is allowed to take classes at any of the state's community colleges, including CCCC, which has campuses in Sanford, Pittsboro, Siler City and Lillington. United States citizens or legal residents who didn't graduate high school but who have earned a GED can also enroll.

Several orientations for the school's various campuses are coming up, as well as placement tests for incoming students. More information is available at www.cccc.edu.