J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College sees record enrollment - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

J. Sargeant Reynolds sees record enrollment

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The tough economy is driving more and more students to community colleges. This first week of class is shattering records at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. But those records are posing some problems.

The campus is abuzz these days. That's because the largest spring semester class is on campus, right now.

In the last four years, student Doug Ford has seen the campus transform into a whole new world. "When I first came here, it was never hard to find a parking spot. Now, you come and you have to park way in the back and hunt for a spot," says Ford.  

That is actually getting harder by the day. That's because people like Brandon Kemp are still signing up for classes. "It's easy for me to commute here," says Kemp. 

Not only that. but a big economic boost as well. "I didn't want to impose of my parents so much so I came here," adds Kemp.  

It's a decision many are making, filling up the classrooms and saving themselves more than 50 percent compared to tuition at other four-year schools like Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

Another, others like Debra Bowman are part of another growing trend.

"There are a lot of older students. A lot of people who used to work with me are here," says Bowman.  

More than 12,000 students are enrolled here this spring. That's a 15 percent increase over last year's spring semester class. For this entire school year will see the school top 20,000 students. 

But, the big increase does have it's challenges, especially since state funding for the school dropped 7 percent this year.

"That results in a tuition increase unfortunately. But, we have to increase tuition to hire the adjust or part time faculty to teach the classes," says Malcolm Holmes with J. Sargeant Reynolds. The total increase in tuition was $7 per credit.  

An important move to get more faculty, since Ford says moving forward, the biggest challenge for students will be finding a spot in these busy classrooms.

"You go online to register and a walk and a half later, registration is already full. The classrooms just aren't big enough," adds Ford.  

To combat that, construction is underway on a new buildings on campus and just this semester, the school opened several new classrooms.

School officials say this class may get even larger. That's because registration is still ongoing through Friday.

Looking toward the fall semester, the enrollment may increase, depending on what happens with the economy in the coming months.

The school is the 3rd largest Community College in Virginia. Another interesting trend is more people are becoming full time students. Normally, only about 25 percent of the students are full time. Now, that number is more around 35 percent.

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