A top college official Wednesday said enrollment drops this year at the two public universities in Eastern Washington should be short-lived.
Marc Gaspard, executive director of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board, said Washington’s colleges and universities need to prepare for at least 60,000 new students over the next 12 years.
That is based on population trends, and many of those students will show up in Eastern Washington where there is room for them, he said.
“We can’t use one year as an indicator for the direction of enrollments,” Gaspard said during a stop in Spokane.
Washington State University enrollment is down an estimated 761 students below the state budget.
At Eastern Washington University, the decline is now pegged at 907 students below budget.
Gaspard said he and other college officials are puzzled by the downturn at a time when forecasters are calling for a big boom in demand for college.
More students this year are turning to community colleges where the tuition is lower. Across the state, community colleges are reporting an increase of 5,500 students.
As a result, enrollment is up about 2 percent in the higher education system statewide.
The Community Colleges of Spokane are sharing in the boom.
Terry Brown, chief executive officer for the community colleges, said he is reporting 180 additional students this year at his two colleges and the Institute for Extended Learning. Enrollment stands at about 11,740 full-time students.
“Our enrollment is very healthy,” Brown said, adding that technical training programs are in demand.
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