Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gas prices pinching rural community colleges

Rising gas prices are hurting community colleges in rural America. "Sensitive to their enrollment numbers and the plight of their fuel-cost-fatigued students, administrators at rural community colleges are looking for ways to help students stay on track with their studies even as their monthly transportation bills rise, in some cases approaching the several-hundred-dollar range," Libby Sander writes for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"In large swaths of rural America, where a journey of 50 to 100 miles to reach a destination is the norm, some community-college officials say students are being forced to make tough decisions about what they can afford, given the added expense of fuel," Sander reports. "Some are dropping out. Others are turning to online classes for relief from the pump."

A growing number of community colleges are helping students by altering schedules and dropping one day of classes, which saves students a trip to campus each week, Mary Beth Marklein writes for USA Today. "The push to drop a day, usually Fridays, is rippling primarily through two-year colleges serving rural areas, where many students drive long distances and public transportation is harder to come by." Such policies have recently been announced at Eastern Kentucky University and LeTourneat University. Also, "Some universities are switching to a four-day work week this summer to allow employees to save gas costs, , reports.

More and more students are are opting for online classes, which eliminates commutes to and from community colleges while reducing fuel costs. State colleges and universities in Tennessee have experienced a 29 percent increase in online registration this summer compared to last summer and face a 20 percent increase for the fall, Colby Sledge reports for The Tennessean of Nashville. Robbie Melton, associate vice chancellor for the state Board of Regents, identified a consistency among students signing up for online classes. "When they call, they keep saying, 'The gas prices, it's just unbelievable,'" he said. (Read more)

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