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State community, tech schools see enrollment spike

Hundreds of students enrolled into Minnesota State Community and Technical College for the first day of classes Monday, causing a spike in enrollment this year.

Enrollment at the Detroit Lakes community college is up 300 more students compared to 2009.

Provost Chris Valdez said the sluggish economy is in part responsible for students pursuing associate degrees to kick-start their professional training.

"Our enrollment has more than doubled in the last three years," he said.

So far, about 1,300 students are registered at M State, with possibly more to come in the next three weeks.

Valdez said the competitive online programs that school officials have been adding is also a factor in the increasing enrollment.

Even technical programs like marine technology and radiology are offering online classes to make it more convenient for students.

"Students have access to it in a whole different way," he said.

The 1,300 students now enrolled at M State include a mix of "e-Campus" and on-campus students.

Hannah McKagan is a recent Detroit Lakes High School graduate and a freshman at M State this year. She's one of hundreds who choose to mix online with on-campus classes.

"It gives me the extra days so instead of being in school I can do it on my own time," she said, adding that the flexibility helps with her work schedule as well.

McKagan is one of hundreds of students who are pursuing health care degrees at M State, a field that can be more stable than others in a dismal economy.

Some of the most popular two-year degrees at M State include automotive technology -- which is at full capacity this semester, -- computer support, registered nursing, radiologic technology, paralegal and legal assistant, Valdez said.

A combination of steady tuition costs, increasing online opportunities and persistence in retaining students has also contributed to the rising enrollment numbers, Valdez said.

In other area campuses, the Wadena M State is slightly under goal this year, partially because of tornado damage it experienced in June.

"At this point we're in a stabilizing period," said Valdez, who's also the Wadena campus provost.

The Moorhead campus is experiencing an enrollment boost, while Fergus Falls is on target.

But administrators are confident that Wadena, along with the other campuses, will welcome more students in the next few weeks.

"We'll continue to have some enrollments come in," Valdez said. "Our online enrollments are increasing tremendously."