A growing Tri-Cities population helped Columbia Basin College buck the statewide trend of fewer students enrolling in classes.
The Pasco-based college added 69 more students compared to last fall and continues to grow, according to college leaders.
And the bump is primarily because more Running Start students from area high schools are taking college courses.
In all, 128 more high school juniors and seniors are attending CBC classes this fall.
That’s 1,475 high school juniors and seniors seeking an associate’s degree compared to 1,347 students last year at this time.
The program allows students to earn college credits before leaving high school.
While Running Start students are required to pay for fees and books, the remaining costs are covered by the student’s home school district.
“There are many factors that have contributed to our steady enrollment growth, one being the continued strength and popularity of our Running Start program,” said CBC President Rebekah Woods.
“We have also seen enrollment increases in our workforce, worker retraining and apprenticeship programs and will continue to add high-demand programs and degrees to meet the needs of our community,” she said.
Other community colleges statewide aren’t seeing the same demand.
Enrollment has leveled off or steadily declined at many of those schools.
And nationally community college enrollments have declined, in part, because a strong economy means more people are finding jobs, said officials.
Tri-City higher education leaders say the continued population growth in Tri-Cities and, in turn, more students attending area high schools is helping bolster CBC’s enrollment.
“We’re fortunate to be in a growing community, which helps offset natural enrollment lags that community colleges typically experience during times of economic recovery,” Woods said.
As a result, the college is continuing to expand its offerings.
Its first class in its bachelor’s of applied science in early childhood education started this fall.
While Running Start and worker retraining programs helped boost the overall enrollment numbers, the college lost students in various programs at the school. But no single program saw a significant drop.
The college’s residence hall, Sunhawk Hall, continues its success from last year.
The 124-bed apartment-style dorm welcomed 107 students this year, which is up by 13 from last year.
The hall allows students to rent a spot in a 1, 2, 3 or 4 bedroom apartment that comes complete with a kitchen.
It was built with the goal to give out-of-area students a place to live while they attend classes. Just shy of a third of the residents come from out of the state and 2 percent of them are international students.
It’s also become a place for student athletes. Columbia Basin College student housing said 38 percent of the people living in the hall are athletes.
This comes after an opening year where the college struggled to find enough people to fill the rooms. They have previously credited a marketing push and a rent cut with helping to get students interested in living there.