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Riverland enrollment decreases

Riverland Community College's enrollment decreased 6.4 percent this year amid statewide decreases at two-year colleges.

According to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities data released Thursday, Riverland's enrollment this year is 3,329, compared to 3,558 last year.

Statewide, this year's enrollment in MnSCU's 31 colleges and universities is down by 1.5 percent, though at 200,716 students, it's still the second-highest total to date.

MnSCU officials had anticipated an enrollment decrease because many of the students who enrolled at the start of the recession in 2008 have now graduated.

Meanwhile, online enrollment continues to increase, rising 3.5 percent to 55,554 students. The number of minority students set a record high at 43,141, up 4.6 percent (minority students now make up 22 percent of MnSCU enrollment).

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Also, enrollment at Winona State University increased 4 percent, to 8,976.

At Riverland and at Rochester Community Technical College, which had an enrollment decrease of 2.6 percent (from 6,245 students to 6,081 students), several factors probably contributed, according to RCTC President Don Supalla.

• Discretionary income everywhere is down, leaving less money to spend on education.

• Minnesota's two-year college tuition is third-highest in the U.S.

• Unemployment, which often spurs people to take college classes, hasn't been as high in Mower, Olmsted and Dodge counties as it has been in many areas.

"Last year was probably a blip on the radar screen, the exception rather than the rule," Supalla said.

Because many students in MnSCU schools shifted from full-time to part-time status, full-year-equivalent enrollment is projected to decrease by 2.5 percent for the current year. The projected decrease at Riverland is 4.4 percent, and at RCTC it is 4.2 percent.

Full-year-equivalent enrollment is calculated by adding the credits taken by all students and dividing by the number of credits considered to be a full-time load — 30 credits per year for undergraduates, and 20 credits for graduates.

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