Wallace in Dothan sees enrollment surge

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - The economy may be down, but enrollment is up at a community college in the Wiregrass.  And,as it turns out, this recession is playing a big role in the near record turnout.

Many victims of recession related lay-offs begin a path to a new career in the classroom.  Often, at community colleges.

Not long ago, Nursing student Basheba Porter was operating a machine that made fitted sheets at the West Point plant in Abbeville.

When the plant shut down, she found herself out of a job.

But, instead of letting it get her down, she decided to begin a new chapter in her life.

She said, "I thought, this is my chance, to better my education and help my kids out."

She had always wanted to be a registered nurse.  She said, "This is my opportunity.  I don't have any excuses."

Lucky for her, the plant paid her tuition, and she was able to still receive her unemployment benefits.

And she's not the only displaced worker heading back to school.

Wallace Community College has seen an 18% rise in enrollment, and administrators say, many of those students are recently laid off workers.

Even so, Director of Public Relations, Sally Buchanan, says, "That's quite a jump.  We typically see around an 8 %increase."

But it's not just displaced workers finding their way back into community college classrooms, college administrators say they're also seeing a rise in the population of students coming right out of high school.

Buchanan says that's because students and their families know they can save thousands of dollars by attending a community college for two years and then transferring to a 4-year-college.

And for Basheba, she says, it's all about taking it one step at a time.

She said, "Start out small.  Just take one or two classes, and build your way up."

There are several financial aid options available for displaced workers.

Check with each individual college's financial aid office for more information.