Some community colleges attribute enrollment increases to online degree programsAcross the U.S., many schools are reporting increased enrollment. The turbulent economy coupled with a growing number of online learning opportunities has prompted many individuals who were previously on the fence about returning to school to seek a degree.

Spartanburg Community College enrolled more than 1,000 new students between 2008 and 2009, reports the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

College officials told the news source that overall enrollment at the school has increased by 22 percent, and that the institution recently earned the honor of the 15th fastest growing school among nearly 250 community colleges that serve between 5,000 and 9,999 students.

“The national recession has driven younger students to community colleges because our tuition is more affordable than that of four-year colleges and universities,” Para M. Jones, president of the school, told the news source “The result is that the average age of our students has gone down from approximately 28 to 26 years of age.”

They added that the school’s online course offerings are contributing to the overall success of the college. Currently, the school offers more than 100 online courses as well as internet-based associates degree programs and certificates. These web-based options allow the school to reach individuals outside their normal target area and entice students from across the country to enroll.

Similiarly, Terra Community College has made significant strides in its online course package. The Ohio-based school is offering more online classes to help capture more students who are seeking distance learning options.

In an effort to attract more students in its virtual programs, the school is now offering 93 online classes with nearly 2,000 students attending web-based classes last fall, reports the Port Clinton News Herald

“[Our] students are very busy and want flexible classes,” Nancy Sattler, dean of liberal arts and public services at Terra Community College, told the news source.

School officials added that the college is also offering more hybrid courses through which students will complete certain parts of classes online and on-campus. Since these programs became available, the institution has seen an increase in enrollment from 57 students in the fall 2008 semester to 678 in 2010. These numbers represent record highs for the institution.

According to the Pew Research Center, community colleges enroll nearly half of all U.S. graduates, totalling more than 6 million students.

Enrollment in high demand professions and online courses increase for DeVry

Other schools are seeing a boost in enrollment in degree programs that feed into in-demand professions, such as nursing. For instance, officials from DeVry Inc. recently experienced significant growth in enrollment n 2010 in its web-based and healthcare programs, reports BusinessWeek.

Officials told the news source that enrollment in its Chamberlain College of Nursing grew by 42 percent in 2009. Furthermore, nearly 21 percent more students registered for online courses at the school, while nearly 2,500 more were attending graduate classes as compared to the previous year.

According to the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, nearly 5.6 million students from more than 2,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. were enrolled in a web-based class in the fall semester of 2009.

Ashford University graduates record number of students in 2010

Finally, Ashford University, an online school, recently reported that 98 percent of the 8,268 graduates in 2010 earned their degree online.

“In 2010, we graduated 3,000 more students than in 2009,” said Jane McAuliffe, president of Ashford University “The 2010 graduating class is by far the largest in Ashford University’s 92-year history.”

College officials said that more than 5,000 students graduated in 2009.

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