Community colleges are used to "doing more with less" -- but if they weren't accustomed to it before the economic downturn, they are growing more so with each passing day, as a survey to be released today shows.
The survey  of 128 community college district chancellors and campus presidents, conducted for the second year by the League for Innovation in the Community College and the Campus Computing Project, finds two-year institutions to be caught in a vise of growing student demands for enrollment and continuing financial strain due to diminished state funds. The survey is to be released at the league's Innovations 2010  meeting in Baltimore today.
Ninety-four percent of the 128 institutions reported enrollment increases in the winter 2010 term, about the same as for the comparable period in 2009. But the new survey suggests a rise in the size of the increases. Nearly a third of the 2010 respondents reported that their enrollments swelled by at least 15 percent and another third said their student bodies grew by 10 to 15 percent; in 2009, by contrast, 28 percent of respondents reported increases of at least 10 percent.
A slightly smaller proportion of two-year institutions (52 percent) reported facing reductions in state funding in 2010 than was the case in 2009 (57 percent). But the number of chancellors and presidents that said they suffered cutbacks of at least 10 percent more than doubled, to 18 percent from 7 percent.
Fewer colleges also reported encountering midyear rescissions in their state funds (54 percent in 2010 vs. 61 percent in 2009). But for those that did face such cuts, the average size of the reduction grew, to 7 percent in 2010 from 5 percent the year before.
The combination of student body growth and budget cuts led some of them to impose enrollment caps. Thirteen percent of two-year institutions reported putting limits on their enrollments this winter, up from 9 percent in winter 2009. Several types of institutions -- metropolitan campuses (19 percent), and institutions enrolling 5,000-10,000 students (21 percent) and more than 10,000 students (26 percent) -- were significantly likelier than other two-year colleges to have imposed such caps.
“The 2010 survey reveals that the community colleges remain on the receiving end of the ‘do more with less and do it better’ mantra that typically accompanies budget cuts and economic upheaval,” Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, said in a news release about the survey. "Community colleges are doing and serving a lot more, and are doing it with much less. This has significant consequences for instruction resources, instructional support, and for student support services.”