Graduates entering a new world
Scholarship applications, enrollment at community college's up in tough economy
In the past few weeks, 2,415 Carroll County students have graduated from high school, grabbing their diplomas and stepping off the stage into an uninviting economy and a different life than before.
And more now than ever, that new life will include a two-year college.
"We have seen a rise in the number of kids that are applying to community colleges," said South Carroll High School counselor Ed Wharton, who has been in the position for five years.
The school saw its 301 seniors graduate Friday.
"A lot of them say, It's cheap, it saves money and I can transfer later on' … it seems to be a trend," he said.
Wharton said he has spoken with students looking at Carroll Community College, Frederick Community College, Howard Community College and even Catonsville Community College. He said they offer different programs, and some students even opt to attend the schools for the opportunity to play sports.
Carroll County Public Schools does not yet have statistics outlining what percentage of the Class of 2009 will move on to two- or four-year colleges, military service or employment.
Judy Klinger, supervisor of school counselors at Carroll County Public Schools, said though data is not compiled, she wouldn't be surprised to see more students attend Carroll Community College. "For some of them, Carroll is a great option," she said.
The number of high school students in the concurrent enrollment program, where a high school student takes a class or two at the community college, dropped this year. Klinger said it could be parents tightening down, saying no to the extra cost.
She said the number of college applications is still on the high side, but whether students end up going to their top or most expensive choice remains to be seen. She said she had heard that students are struggling to find summer jobs.
"People that are out of work are taking student's jobs," she said. "They have less options. I know that is troubling for some of the kids that we know are looking for jobs right now."
Sharon Boettinger, supervisor of counseling and student support for Frederick County Public Schools, said that more students are considering the community college than in the past.
Sandra Smith, associate vice president for enrollment management at the Frederick Community College, said enrollment for the fall semester has increased 20 percent from this time last year. Registration for fall courses began late April.
"I did not expect that we'd be up this much at this point," Smith said. "We're up in every category."
Much of this increase is due to students registering early, she said, but it also indicates a 12 percent increase in the number of traditional applicants, or what Carroll County Community College calls first time entering freshmen.
By the start of the fall semester, Smith said the college expects a 12 percent to 14 percent increase in the number of new students. To prepare for the wave, Frederick Community College has hired more adjunct professors and added 80 new sections of general studies courses.
Sylvia Blair, executive assistant to the president at Carroll Community College, said the Class of 2008 in Carroll County enrolled at the college was 23.9 percent, or 569, of the graduates. The number and percentage were second highest on record.
Though community colleges are more affordable than other academic institutions, more students are also seeking scholarships to off-set the costs involved. Emily Sines of Mount Pleasant has been involved with the Mount Pleasant Ruritan Club scholarship for about 20 years, where the award can be given to children and grandchildren of members in the Linganore and Walkersville areas. In previous years the scholarship has had maybe seven or eight applicants. "I've had an average of 20 the past two years," she said.
"We give one of the largest scholarships," Sines said, pointing out the three scholarships the club offers, each worth $1,500. "But it's not really a lot when you think of the cost of one semester or a year."
She said she thinks the uptick in applicant's points to high quality scholars, but also the struggling economy and the affect on the students and their families.
"I think it's definitely the economy," she said. "I think students are looking everywhere for scholarships," she said, saying that students had told her they were applying to multiple scholarships, looking for money anywhere they could.
Staff writers Katherine Mullen and Margarita Raycheva contributed to this report.
E-mail Angie Cochrun at email@example.com.
Members of South Carroll High School's Class of 2009 have varied plans for the future
-49 percent will attend a four-year college
-31 percent will attend a two-year college
-12 percent will enter the workforce
-4 percent are undecided
-2 percent will attend a technical or trade school
-2 percent will enter the military
Source: South Carroll High School counseling office