MONTROSE – The bad economy has likely helped enrollment at Mesa State College’s Montrose campus, which shows a whopping 70 percent increase in enrollment from the fall semester of 2010 to the fall of 2009,
Joey Montoya-Boese, director of the Montrose campus at 234 South Cascade Ave., said enrollment figures for the current spring semester aren’t in yet because of the current add/drop period, with “census day” set for Feb. 2.
But the final count for enrollment for the fall semester of 2010 showed a total of 323 students, 100 more than the year before, Montoya-Boese said.
Most of those students – 61.3 percent – are “non-traditional,” she said, meaning they are over 25 and may have been out of school for years. In the previous year, from the fall of 2008 to 2009, the split between “traditional” students, those under 25, and “non-traditional,” was about 50-50.
“The economy plays a role, with individuals realizing they need to retool,” she said, “so they go back to school to try and provide a better life for their children.”
In her five years at Mesa State-Montrose, Montoya-Boese said increases in enrollment have usually been due to “traditional” students, mostly kids coming out of high school. That steady increase in younger students was largely due to the guaranteed transfer of credits for certain general education courses, such as math, English and science, through State Department of Education guidelines, she said.
And when younger students are not sure what they want to major in, the small Montrose campus is a good place discover what path they want to take, she said, since they know those core courses are transferable.
The most popular overall courses at the Montrose campus, the ones driving the enrollment up, are associates degrees in nursing and business administration and a bachelor of arts in elementary education, Montoya-Boese said. All the degree programs are listed at mesastate.edu/montrose, she added, and some could be stepping-stones to higher-level degrees.
“You could get an associates degree in social sciences if you know you want to go into a social science field such as psychology or criminal justice,” she said.
Many of the “non-traditional” students have been out of school for ten years or more, Montoya-Boese said, and are intimidated at first about returning to school with younger students. But because it’s such a small campus, attention is personal, and students, no matter what their age, soon feel at home.
“Many are working full-time and many have families,” she said. “If this campus didn’t exist, they might not have that opportunity.”
Like everyone, Montoya-Boese hopes the economy gets better, but she also hopes the school will continue to grow and continue to add more courses.
The school works closely with the Colorado Workforce Center in Montrose to determine the types of skills needed for jobs in this area, she said. The Montrose campus also conducted a survey in 2009 that “didn’t show a strong distinction” in any particular area, except for health care, she said.
To help fill that need, the Montrose campus plans “in the near future” to offer training toward a certificate as a medical office assistant, she said, an area of worker shortage identified by the local Colorado Workforce Center.
More details about the regional influence of Mesa State are available to download at www.mesastate.edu/president/impactstudy/index.html for the recently published Regional Economic Impact 2011 by Carol Futhey, Vice President for Academic Affairs.
The study states that Mesa State is a major impact on the Western Slope through it’s “diverse mix of 72 programs” with a total enrollment of 8,131 students in the fall of 2010, and a 23 percent increase in enrollment from fall of 2005 to the fall of 2009, making it one of the fastest growing four-year colleges in the state.
In 2010, the college was listed in Forbes Magazine’s “600 Top Colleges in America,” based on student ratings, according to the study.
As the Montrose campus of the college continues to grow, Montoya-Boese said the goal of the advisory board and other stakeholders is to identify and implement more changes to help students learn, such as a much-needed science lab for the nursing program.
The six-year old program, through which licensed practical nurses can take fast-track classes to become registered nurses, has graduated a total of 67 nurses, and most are working in local communities in Delta, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties, she said.
The bachelors degree in elementary education program, begun more recently, is also gaining traction, Montoya-Boese said, and is grooming young educators, many of whom will stay here to work.
“We’re thinking of how we can sustain the community…growing our own teachers, and health care professionals and also business administrators,” she said.