General economic conditions are boosting the outlook for community colleges. Because of reduced financial aid packages at traditional colleges, more 18 to 24 year olds are attending local two year 1196026_graduate_at_lastcommunity colleges. And  the havoc in the labor market is leading more consumers to look at community colleges as a resource to provide them with new skills.

Community colleges would do well to specifically target young adults who are just completing high school. Some studies have suggested that colleges may have a difficult time competing for the smaller pool of high school graduates that is projected for the next several years. However, the PewResearchCenter analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data points to a larger number of students graduating high school instead of dropping out. The high school completion rate now stands at 84.9%. Of these graduates, 39.6% go on to college. Here’s where the class of 2008 chose to study:

  • Enrolled in 2-year college 11.8%
  • Enrolled in 4-year college 27.8%

The total number of 2008 high school graduates who enrolled in a 2-year college was 3.425 million. This is the largest number in history and represents a significant increase from 2003 when 10.2% of high school graduates went to a 2-year college, a total of 2.786 million students.

Community college admissions officers should also take note that total enrollment in their 2-year undergraduate programs for all U.S. consumers over age 14 has reached 5.345 million students. These numbers translate to an 11% increase between 2007 and 2008.

Though U.S. Census Bureau data for 2009 is not yet available, Pew Analysts believe that community colleges will be in demand by traditional and non-traditional students. Colleges that expand their marketing campaigns may be able to increase their market share.

[Source: Fry, Richard. College Enrollment Hits All-Time High, PewResearchCenter, 10.29.09]