Community colleges pushing two-year degreesState schools have seen a decrease in higher education funding over the last several years, and community colleges are doing their best to attract more students and boost revenue.

It is not always easy for community colleges to lure in young, traditional students. While some are attracted to the low tuition and ease of attending a school close to home, high schoolers preparing for college are often pulled in by the idea of a four-year university and living in a dormitory. For many students, this means taking out a great deal of student loans, as the cost of college continues to rise.

"It's almost cultural," Shelton State Community College president, Dr. Mark Heinrich, told the Tuscaloosa News. "Most families want their children to go to college, and they don't see they two-year system as a college."

Many community colleges are seeing their enrollment rates hold steady, but they have noticed a significant difference in the type of students that are now attending classes. Pupils are more frequently choosing to attend school part time to save money and still be able to work, decreasing revenue even further.

Encouraging technical programs
To encourage more students to apply and to increase the number of credit hours current pupils are enrolled in, some schools are trying a new approach. They're spreading the word about the benefits of the two-year technical degrees they offer, especially during a time when the manufacturing industry is reportedly having trouble filling available positions.

Workers with technical skills will be in demand, as a large number of trained workers are rapidly approaching retirement. Community college graduates with a technical degree can start off making more money than some of their four-year university peers, and many fields that are seeking employees have high job security. However, parents and students sometimes fail to understand the benefits of a two-year technical program.

Some community colleges are encouraging students to enroll in their technical programs by partnering with large companies to create internship and training programs. Shelton State recently teamed up with Mercedes-Benz and the University of Alabama to offer a special training program. The top performing students will have the opportunity to join the production division's workforce full-time after they have completed the program.

In addition to preparing students for the manufacturing workforce, some community colleges are offering special training programs for specific companies. A corporation can pay a fee to have its workforce trained as it sees fit, to make employees more efficient and informed about their industry. The company receives a freshly-trained, more productive staff, and community colleges increase their revenue by offering the program.

Highlighting healthcare degrees
Another way community colleges are attracting students is by promoting their two-year healthcare degrees. The healthcare industry isn't just seeking doctors, so plenty of two-year programs are seeing a rise in enrollment. Two-year schools are capitalizing on their healthcare departments, promoting the need for new health industry professionals. The Affordable Care Act, a longer life expectancy and a rapidly aging baby boomer generation have caused many positions to open in hospitals, home care organizations and nursing homes, and community colleges are jumping on the healthcare bandwagon.

"Healthcare is a big, big winner," John A. Logan College president Mike Dreith told southern Illinois ABC affiliate WSIL.

The medical industry has seen a continuous demand for new employees, something two-year institutions are pushing in their marketing campaigns. Like the manufacturing sector, skilled workers can be difficult for employers to find. By promoting their low tuition rates and programs that lead to well-paying, secure jobs, community colleges hope to increase their enrollment and revenue.
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