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Community College's population hits peak


Howard Community College's fall enrollment is the highest in the school's 30-year history, fueled in part by a sizable jump in high school graduates.

According to enrollment figures released yesterday, 5,452 students are taking credit classes this year - a 4 percent increase from last fall. HCC's full-time equivalency, a figure that reflects the number of credits taken, increased 7 percent. College officials say the jump in this year's enrollment is significant because it is the largest since 1991, when the student body increased 9 percent. That year, HCC had 4,883 students.

Kate Hetherington, vice president of student services at the college, said she was "thrilled" at the growth, even though it presents challenges.

"It really raises the bar for the staff to make sure they're able to meet the demands that this growth is going to place on us," she said.

College officials say the enrollment jump this semester is partly because of an influx in students fresh out of high school, 23 percent more than last fall. About 630 students this semester - or one in 10 - are new graduates.

"That alone was pretty significant, especially since that type of student typically comes full time," Hetherington said.

She said college officials have stepped up efforts to recruit high school students, encouraging them to apply early and offering orientation sessions.

Staff members also called students who applied to HCC but didn't register, and asked them if they had had problems signing up for classes.

Space has been an issue for HCC because the college infrastructure has not grown in some time. Five academic buildings sit on its main campus; the newest, for science and technology instruction, was built in 1989. A new instructional building is planned, but it isn't scheduled to open until 2003.

"It's making it more challenging to find space," said Randy Bengfort, the college's director of public relations and marketing. "We did expand weekend sections and online courses, so that's helping to increase enrollment without taking more space."

But Hetherington said there is still room to be had, and she is glad the student body is expanding.

"We're very happy about this because we really exceeded our expectations this semester," she said. "Feels like we're doing something right."

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