Blue Ridge Community College seeing rebound in enrollment, mirroring national trend

Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 2:24 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center says for the first time since the pandemic, enrollment numbers at community colleges are beginning to bounce back.

The nonprofit which provides statistics at colleges throughout the United States says so far in 2023, a 2% bump in enrollment for two-year schools. That rebound is also being seen in the Shenandoah Valley.

“We’re up about 10% in enrollment this past academic year, part of that is because we were down in enrollment during COVID,” Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. John Downey said.

Dr. Downey credits some of the increase to partnerships with several four-year institutions in the state, which can often help in situations where students face financial barriers.

“Often they can start out and do their freshman and sophomore year, and not have loans taken out. And then they can transfer to those partner schools that we have and save a tremendous amount of money not only in tuition and fees but also room and board,” Dr. Downey said.

The partnerships also help students like Stephen Hull. Hull is from the Churchville area, and says his dream is to be a Virginia Tech Hokie.

“I ended up getting waitlisted and then not getting off the waitlist, but I was still wanting to go to Virginia Tech,” Hull said.

The transfer agreement through the Virginia Community College System and Virginia Tech, allows students like Hull to receive guaranteed admission if they achieve and maintain a 3.2 GPA among other requirements.

Now, Hull says he will be pursuing a degree in Mining and Minerals Engineering, a field that’s always been of interest to him.

“All sorts of things are mined, gravel, aggregates for construction, roads, gold copper silver. A lot of energy is either mined or brought up out of the ground somehow,” Hull said.

James Madison University is one of BRCC’s partner schools and says their enrollment numbers are staying steady.

“We are on track to welcome about 4,700 new first-year students and about 700 new transfers to JMU. Most of the students, about half or more, will come to us from community colleges within the state. We see that that’s true in our applicant pool and also in our enrollment in the fall,” JMU’s Director of Admissions and Assistant Vice President for Access and Enrollment Management said.

The National Student Clearinghouse also highlights an increased rate of students pursuing dual-enrollment credits, which are also contributing to the rebound in community college enrollment.