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Business and Economy

Enrollment in Maine's community colleges is down 6% this fall. They point to more job openings

Maine community college officials say that a robust job market is part of the reason behind a nearly 6% drop in enrollment this fall.

The decline is part of a larger trend in higher education. According to newly released data, undergraduate enrollment nationwide is on track to fall more than 3% after declining last year.

Maine Community College System President David Daigler said part of that is likely due to more job openings, which Daigler says has led some students who enrolled last spring to instead move into jobs.

"So they've left credits stranded, because they don't have the degree and learning that's taken place. But they have enough learning to get some traction in the workplace," Daigler said.

Daigler said the system is working on ways to educate people while they're working, such as creating new training programs with businesses. The system has dramatically increased its short-term training programs for workers in recent years in fields such as health care and manufacturing.

Meanwhile, preliminary numbers across the University of Maine System also show an enrollment decline, of about .5%. But officials note that the system's flagship campus in Orono has brought in more out-of-state students, resulting in a 2% increase in student numbers.