Community Colleges Extend Classroom Hours

By Staff
September 25, 2009

Faced with record enrollment, dwindling budgets and limited classroom space, some community colleges are scheduling additional classes as early as 6:00 a.m. and as late as midnight.

The Washington Post reports that at Northern Virginia Community College, more than 20 fall courses are offered before 7 a.m., and more classes are being offered on weekends, evenings and online. Additionally, professors may no longer cap enrollment without demonstrating an instructional need.

The expanded hours and classes are the result of surging enrollment at community colleges, bolstered by high school graduates in search of inexpensive degrees and career-changers looking to be retrained. In the DC region, community college enrollment rose by close to 12,000 students this fall.

At Tidewater Community College in Virginia, 308 class sections were added before the fall term started; they are offered from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends. Montgomery College likewise has added seven new classes that start before 8 a.m., 24 online classes and six taught on Saturdays. At the College of Southern Maryland, students have been enrolling in online and hybrid courses--which are partially taught online. Enrollment in such classes has risen 20 percent.

"Suddenly, we're using that room for double the number of classes," explained Bradley Gottfried, president of CSM. "We just don't have the seats that we would like to have."

The Boston Globe reports that the situation has become extreme at Bunker Hill Community College, where two popular introductory courses in psychology and college writing are being offered this semester from 11:45 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. The "Burning the Midnight Oil" schedule, as it is being called, was introduced to help the school accommodate a 23 percent enrollment surge to a record 10,000 students.

"We were clearly at a breaking point, and we had no classes left for anybody," said Mary Fifield, president of the college. "We're just doing everything we can to accommodate the students coming in our doors. It's like a deluge."

The late-night classes have been filling up with students with wide ranges of ages and professions, some who registered too late and others who were drawn to the class because it fit their schedules.

"This is one of the more unique ways community colleges are trying to serve a larger number of students," explained Norma Kent, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Community Colleges. "State budgets are under stress at the same time colleges have a great number of students to serve, so it's quite a conundrum."

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