Enrollment at Columbia Basin College dropped slightly last year compared with the two previous years, but the college still is the most popular destination by far for Tri-City high school graduates.
Numbers reported Monday to the college's Board of Trustees show CBC draws more Tri-City students than do all other Washington public colleges and universities combined. The report also showed how many students each high school sends and how many of them identify as Hispanic.
Almost 7,000 students attended CBC last year, said CBC President Rich Cummins. Their combined total course load was the equivalent of what 5,600 full-time students would take.
The difference between the two numbers is the result of many students going to CBC part time while they work jobs or raise a family.
CBC's enrollment is about 4 percent above what the state pays for. And that is a good spot to be in, Cummins told the Herald.
When enrollment drops below the state allocation, as it did in 2006, CBC isn't providing as much as it should.
And when enrollment goes too far above the state allocation, as it did in 2008 and 2009, resources are stretched too thin and qualified part-time instructors for additional courses become hard to find, Cummins said.
Being just barely above the allocation means all school resources are used at maximum efficiency, he said.
Last year's slightly decreased enrollment likely is because of the college's reduced course offerings in the wake of state budget cuts, Cummins said.
State numbers back that up. About 7,500 fewer students attended two-year colleges in the state in 2010 than did in 2009, according to a September report by the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. The report said colleges had reached their financial capacity after years of budget cuts.
But even with a slight dip in enrollment, more students from Pasco, Richland and Kennewick go to CBC than go to all other public higher-ed institutions in the state combined.
"It was a real surprise to me what a heavy hitter CBC is for all the area high schools," Joe Montgomery, dean of institutional effectiveness, told the board.
Montgomery put the report together.
Out of the 176 graduates of Kennewick High School in 2009 -- the most recent year for which this kind of data is available -- who went to college anywhere, 107 went to CBC. Thirty-seven went to one of the public universities in the state.
Among Pasco High's graduates in the same year, 171 went to CBC and 67 went to a public four-year university elsewhere in the state.
The picture is similar for all Tri-City high schools. For the two Richland high schools, the numbers for CBC and combined four-year universities are closer, but CBC still had a lead.
Pasco High sent more students to CBC than any other single high school in the Mid-Columbia. It also was the largest high school in the region for the years covered in the report and the only high school in Pasco with a graduating class in those years. Chiawana High School graduated its first class this summer.
Kennewick sends the most students to CBC as a district, about 320 in 2009.
More Hispanic students come to CBC from Pasco High than from any other single school. Even all three Kennewick high schools combined sent fewer -- 38 to Pasco's 58.
The report showed a spectacular drop in enrollment of students who had been out of high school for one year or more.
In 2008, more than 700 Tri-City students who had been out of high school for at least a year came to CBC. In 2010, barely more than 100 did.
The trend was the same for all Mid-Columbia schools.
Statewide, a similar trend could be seen last year for older students, David Prince, research director for the state board, told the Herald.
Partially, this had to do with state money for worker retraining going away, Prince said. But the general economic insecurity might be responsible too, he said.
Older students often work while they are going to school. If work becomes scarce, they might not choose to spend money on tuition anymore, Prince said.
It also is possible that workers don't dare quit a job right now and go back to school to better their income, Cummins said.
This is the first time that CBC has compiled the data on the students who aren't recent high school graduates, Montgomery said.
The college will develop outreach programs around this to inform those students that there are grants and other help available for them, Cummins said.
Also in Monday's meeting:
w A large group of Tri-City police veterans came to lobby CBC to name a building or some other portion of campus after Jim Ownby. The longtime instructor for the college's criminal justice program died last month. Several lawmen choked up talking about Ownby's influence on them and the Tri-City community. The matter will be taken up in the next board meeting, Cummins told the officers.
w Bechtel has promised to donate $100,000-$150,000 to CBC toward the construction of a planetarium on campus, said Bob Rosselli, head of the college's foundation. The foundation also approached Battelle for a $100,000 donation toward the project and was "well received," he said.
-- Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org