Community colleges see increase in older students

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - "I was scared to death what I was going to do," says Lisa Bell.

Bell never thought she'd be in school at 38 years old.

That was before she lost her job.

"The company I worked for actually shut down. It was a textile mill," adds Bell.

She's not working anywhere now, but rather working on a nursing degree.

"I was excited because I can actually do something that I love and not have to worry about job security. Because I feel like a nurse.  They're always going to need nurses."

Roderick Thornton's in the same boat.

"I did lose a job," says Thornton.

At 45, he's back in school studying computers and he's not the only one.

"You see a big increase of students, older students coming back to school," says Thornton.

Bell and Thornton are part of a statewide trend at community colleges.

Post-secondary education officials say enrollment was up an unprecedented 12% for fall semester last year, and already it's up again this year.

"Certainly we can attribute some of that to the economy being on a downturn," says Trenholm State President, Sam Munnerlyn.

Munnerlyn says enrollment there has grown 25% since 2007, but proration is taking its toll.

"Even when we're taking in more students, that still does not allow us to have money to build new facilities. So with the proration piece for us, that is a big negative," adds Munnerlyn.

While the sluggish economy may be hard for the state school system, Bell knows she wouldn't have had a chance at her dream job any other way.

"It's just a whole new outlook on life altogether...a bright new future," adds Bell.

Officials say they've expanded class sizes and opened new facilities to meet demands.

If you need to file an unemployment claim call the state at 866-234-5382.

To search for available jobs in our area visit the joblink section of

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