East Central College saw a slight decline in its fall enrollment this year.
Total fall enrollment at the college — which has locations in Rolla, Sullivan, Warrenton and Washington in addition to the main campus in Union — is down 3.5 percent, making the 2013 fall semester the third consecutive year fewer students have signed up for fall classes at ECC, a trend administrators attribute to a slightly improving economy.
A total of 3,901 students are enrolled at ECC, down from 4,043 last fall. They are taking 37,670 credit hours.
According to Dot Schowe, director of public relations for the college, this fall there are 666 students enrolled at the Rolla campus, which is down seven students or 1 percent from last year.
The students at the Rolla campus are taking 6,478 credit hours, a drop of 11 credit hours from last year.
"This trend is not unexpected and is consistent with what most community colleges across the state and nation are experiencing," noted ECC President Jon Bauer.
"Since we're open-admission, we tend to be somewhat countercyclical, meaning that when the economy worsens our enrollment goes up. Flat or shrinking high school graduation class sizes are also a factor," he said. "Demographics are working against us. The number of traditional college age people is diminishing.
"Largely, we're seeing a decrease in the returning non-traditional age students, and I think some of that is actually positive, community-wise," said Bauer. "We're seeing some improvements in the economy.
"The large number of adults who enrolled in 2009 and 2010 have completed their programs and moved into the workforce or transferred on to a four-year college or university, so they have naturally moved off our census," Bauer said.
Bauer said he is encouraged by the number of returning students this semester.
"We saw an increase in sophomore students, with 60 percent of the students who were enrolled last fall taking classes at ECC again this semester," he said. "Retention is something we focused on the past year. We are excited that our efforts to help students on the path to graduation are working out."
Part-time students outnumber full-time students this semester. Those taking less than 12 credit hours account for more than 52 percent of the student population.
Bauer noted that the number of first-time degree seeking students stands at 782, a drop of 48 students from last year.
To be considered a first-time degree seeking student, ECC must be the first college the student has attended since graduating from high school, the current term must be their first at ECC after high school graduation, and the student must be enrolled in a program that will lead to a degree or certificate. Almost 45 percent of ECC students are classified as transfer majors, intending to move on to a four-year college or university after ECC.
Page 2 of 2 - Women make up 62 percent of the student body, an increase of two percent over last fall. The mean student age is 24.
While ECC's enrollment is down this semester, it still remains significantly higher than a decade ago, when fall enrollment totaled just more than 3,200 students. ECC's fall enrollment peaked in 2010 with 4,471 students.