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Local Community College Rates Booming

By Steve Pickett, CBS 11 News
Students attend a class. (credit: Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

Students attend a class. (credit: Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – More than 100,000 people in North Texas get their college education and professional training from a community college.

Since the numbers have grown so large, CBS 11 News wanted to see if the system is able to accommodate the crowds, so we visited the area’s largest community college system to find an answer.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday morning it was standing room only in the enrollment and admission offices of Dallas’ Richland College.

“I honestly think if you have no education, you’re not going to get far,” explained 20-year-old Claudia Mendoza as she waited in line.

Dawn Jeffrey, 26, felt enrolling was so important that she brought her children with her. “I was like, something has to change, because I need an education. I need something more than a high school diploma.”

Both women are hoping to pursue their dreams and neither is surprised to see the thousands who are trying to do the same.

Some 81,000 students now fill the credit-generating classrooms of Dallas Community College campuses. Last semester, the Tarrant County’s Community College System had some 49,000 people enrolled. In Collin County, college enrollment jumped 12-percent, in comparison to January of last year.

“It is to the economic advantage of citizens to attend community colleges,” explained Wright Lassiter, the Dallas County Community College District Chancellor.

According to Chancellor Lassiter, the growing demand for community college access in North Texas also means expanding programs, hiring faculty and providing space.

While state funding is down, Lassiter says the goals to train and educate are on course. “I say these are the best of the times and worst of times. Colleges have been flexible and adept.”

Locally, accessing financial aid at the community college level has dramatically increased. Students in Collin County have applied for $45 million in aid – that amount is double that requested a year ago.

One of the fastest growing categories for community college life is enrollment in online course work. In Dallas, there’s been a 25-percent increase in that enrollment area.