Meridian Community College President Scott Elliott presents a diploma to a student in May.
Meridian Community College President Scott Elliott presents a diploma to a student in May.

Despite record enrollment at the state’s four-year colleges and universities, initial numbers show enrollment at community and junior colleges is down this year.

Enrollment at East Central Community College in Decatur dropped almost 9 percentage points, from 2,602 on the 10th day of the fall semester in 2015 to 2,379 on the same day this year. On the other hand, Meridian Community College  grew by 6.4 percent from 3,388 to 3,606 students. Hinds, the largest community college in the state, grew a little over one percent.

“Since the Great Recession, when our system experienced record enrollments, we have seen the number of students taking classes at a community college begin to normalize,” Community College Board spokesman Kell Smith said in a statement. “Furthermore, approximately 70 percent of community college students are enrolled in academic programs that will allow them to transfer to a university to continue their education.”

Smith also pointed out that the increase in the number of high school students taking dual credit and dual enrollment courses.

“Once these students earn their high school degrees, they have a significant number of hours on their transcripts and are moving directly to the university,” he explained.

Meridian Community College Dean of Student Services Soraya Welden said the 6 percentage point jump is due mostly to part-time students and those in the college’s dual enrollment/dual credit program. Dual enrollment and dual credit programs allow high schoolers on track to graduate who meet certain academic requirements to take college courses. The number of students in that program at MCC increased from 282 students last year to more than 400 this year in a school of approximately 3,600.

Welden said their number of full-time students also increased by about 2 percent.

Eleven of the 15 community colleges experienced decrease in enrollment ranging from .2 percent at Southwest to 8.6 percent at East Central.

Overall, the number of community and junior college students dropped by just under one percent.

Community college fall 2016 enrollment 

Coahoma: – 0.8 percent, 2,191 students

Co-Lin: – 2.2 percent, 3,075 students

East Central: – 8.6 percent, 2,379 students

East Mississippi: – 6 percent, 4,261 students

Hinds: + 1.3 percent, 11,505 students

Holmes: – 0.9 percent, 6,176 students

Itawamba: – 1.2 percent, 5,833 students

Jones: – 0.3 percent, 4,749 students

Meridian: + 6.4 percent, 3,606 students

MS Delta: – 4 percent, 2,372 students

MS Gulf Coast: – 3.7 percent, 9,294 students

Northeast: – 1.2 percent, 3,524 students

Northwest: + 1.2 percent, 7,894 students

Pearl River: + 1.5 percent, 4,725 students

Southwest: – 0.2 percent, 1,897 students

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.