ESCANABA - Enrollment is down at Bay College this semester, but no more than expected by college officials.
For the fall semester 2,445 students are enrolled at Bay College.
Last year 2,742 students were enrolled for the fall semester.
"It's down, but it's a down we were expecting," said Laura Coleman, Bay College president.
According to Coleman, enrollment rates at the college match unemployment rates because many students are taking classes to develop job skills for re-entering the workforce.
"Right now, unemployment in the U.P. is low so fewer people are going to school," said Coleman. According to the Michigan Department of Technology and Budget, the unemployment rate in the U.P. decreased by 1.6 percent during the past year.
While the number of students enrolled at Bay College is lower than last year, 52 percent of enrolled students are over the age of 22, suggesting that many students were part of the job force prior to enrollment.
"For the adult student, there are study guides to help them prepare for the college entrance assessment," said Cindy Carter, director of admissions for Bay College. Carter added the study guides are helpful tools to prepare adult students to return to the classroom if they have not been been in the classroom for several years.
Just over 27 percent of students enrolled this fall are first-time Bay College students. Many of those students are current high school students who face different challenges and require different preparations than older or returning students.
"We are encouraging students to start planning as early as possible," said Carter. "We are seeing the high school students re-taking their ACT a second or even third time in an attempt to raise their scores."
Despite the drop in enrollment at Bay, students will not see a change in tuition based on the change in the number of students.
"We planned for it as we planned for the budget," said Coleman. "We have a couple people here at the college who worked really hard on that."
Even though the college has experienced a drop in enrollment this fall, the number of students attending Bay College has gone up significantly in the last 10 years. According to a report from Michigan Community College NETwork, in 2001 only 2,198 students attended the college. The highest enrollment rate was in 2010 with 2,811 students.
Projections for next year's enrollment are promising. "We anticipate it will be flat or slightly up next year," said Coleman.
The college is expecting another drop in enrollment next semester, but it is not expected to be significant. "There is typically a small drop off between fall and winter," said Coleman.