Growth spurt: ECTC enrollment continues to soar

Photo by Neal Cardin
Elizabethtown Community Technical College's enrollment has more than doubled in the last decade.

Enrollment numbers for the past six years at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.

Fall 2005 – 4,941
Fall 2006 – 4,983
Fall 2007 – 5,515
Fall 2008 – 5,762
Fall 2009 – 6,915
Fall 2010 – projected 7,300 – 7,500

The News Enterprise
August 15, 2010
By KELLY R. CANTRALL

Classes at the local community college begin Monday, and as has been the pattern for the last few years, administrators are expecting considerably more students than were there last fall.

Elizabethtown Community and Technical College is expecting a student enrollment of as many as 7,500, more than 2,500 students more than the college had just five years ago, and more than the double the number of students enrolled in 1998 when President/CEO Thelma White took over that position.

"The growth has happened so rapidly," White said.

The enrollment increase has presented challenges to the college, but they are challenges the administration is happy to have, knowing there are more people turning to ECTC for their educational needs.

The college has gained a large number of students of all ages, from traditional students who are recent high school graduates to non-traditional adult students returning to school.

White said the recession has played a part, with laid-off workers deciding to return to school to improve job prospects. The college also is seeing the effects of Fort Knox's change in mission with more students who are recent transplants to the area.

Many of today's jobs require potential employees to have more education and training, including follow-up training or degrees needed later in life, White said.

But the college's administrators also have made a concerted effort to encourage growth. White said administrators have worked to increase ECTC's visibility and launched outreach programs to persuade more people to obtain post-secondary degrees.

Making financial aid as available as possible is one way ECTC has done that. The college assisted students in receiving about $17 million in aid last year, and about 86 percent of its students receive some form of financial assistance.

Mary Jo King, ECTC public relations director, said a significant portion of the enrollment increase has come from online offerings, which make it convenient for students to attend classes and allow more students in class without the necessity of physical space to house them.

That helps because college administrators are trying to be more flexible with the space they have. Twenty-three students was the average the college used to advertise for class sizes, but Diane Owsley, chairwoman of ECTC's social and behavioral division, estimates it's now closer to 30 to 40 students, depending on the class. Some can't be that large because of equipment restraints or other factors.

ECTC recently opened the final phase of its Regional Postsecondary Education Center, which added classrooms to the campus. But there are no plans for new buildings because funding from the legislature has been hard to come by, White said.

Off-site locations, including a campus in Springfield, also allow enrollment to grow without new construction on the main campus. The Springfield campus has room for more students, White said.

The administration's goal remains to offer programs students are interested in pursuing. Committees review programs and ensure the college is keeping up to date with the changing needs of the job market.

"We have always got to keep our fingers on the pulse of what is needed," White said.

Kelly R. Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747.

This story, written by Kelly R. Cantrall, was provided to One Knox courtesy of The News Enterprise. Read more stories from The News Enterprise at www.thenewsenterprise.com.