Enrollment for the spring semester at Meridian Community College is being extended to Tuesday of next week. Early indications are that enrollment for this semester is down by about 9%. MCC President, Dr. Scott Elliott, says this in line with numbers from other community college across the state. He says a major catalyst for the drop in enrollment involves recent changes to federal financial aid.
"Students can no longer receive the Pell grant for as many semesters as they once were able to, nor is the amount of aid as great as it use to be," says Dr. Elliott.
Last summer Congress approved a measure that reduced the amount of semesters a student can use a Pell grant from 18 to 12. It also slashed the maximum eligibility level for the family income of a full Pell grant recipient from $32,000 to $23,000 a year.
"If they can't get the federal financial aid, in the case of community college students, that pool is going to diminish and it has," says Dr. Elliott.
The average age for a student at MCC is in the mid to late 20's. At least half the students at MCC are non-traditional; this means they are older and often have families and a job. Many non-traditional students have to take basic courses as refreshers. In turn, this causes many of them to use a significant portion of the money to pay for college before they complete their major course work.
Meanwhile, as for future enrollment at MCC, Dr. Elliott says he's optimistic.
'I think this is kind of a valley, but there will be peaks again and we're going to continue to try to serve our community as well as we can.'
Gulf Coast Community College was the only two year institution in Mississippi not to report a decline in enrollment last fall. Dual enrollment efforts are credited with giving it a slight boost. As for Meridian Community College, around 4,000 students were enrolled there last fall.