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Traditional-age student population rises at Chesapeake

Friday, August 19, 2005

WYE MILLS – Easton resident Amanda Weber said she knew her good grades would open doors at most four-year colleges. But paying the tuition was another matter.

"Money was the main issue for me, but now I know that starting at Chesapeake College was a good idea for more than just financial reasons," said Weber, who has a 3.67 grade-point average in three semesters at Chesapeake. "I want to pursue a bachelor´s degree in biology and environmental science and I´ve gotten a great start at Chesapeake. I´ve been able to take all my general education classes and do coursework in science."

Weber, 20, is one of a growing number of traditional-age students who are starting at Chesapeake. The college´s enrollment of traditional-age students – those between the ages of 16 and 22 – increased 32 percent from 2000 to 2004 for a number of reasons, following a nationwide community college trend.

"There are a variety of reasons for the increase, but I think money and ease of transfer are two factors bringing more of the younger students to Chesapeake," said Director of Admissions Kathy Petrichenko. "I´ve been so impressed in the last several years by the high quality of recent high school graduates who have been enrolling at Chesapeake. These are students with excellent grades, high test scores and impressive records of service who are, in many cases, trying to save money."

Counselor Jim Davidson said that students are also drawn by the variety of programs at Chesapeake.

"Students of every age choose colleges based on programs of study. Chesapeake has a good mix of transfer and career programs, so students can usually find what they need here or at least earn enough credits to transfer to the bachelor´s program of their choice at a four-year institution," Davidson said. "Those who aren´t sure what they want to study – and that´s the case with many younger students – feel that they can explore their options at Chesapeake and make those big decisions here."

Petrichenko said that the college has made efforts to recruit traditional students by offering more sections of general education classes during the daytime hours. While night and weekend classes appeal to the older, non-traditional students, the traditional students usually want a full day of classes several times per week.

Both Davidson and Petrichenko said that Chesapeake´s allied health programs are also attracting younger students.

"Students know that jobs in health care are high paying and that job opportunities are plentiful in that field. Whether they are nursing students who plan to transfer for a bachelor´s degree or surgical technology majors who plan to go straight from Chesapeake into a job, they can take the classes they need here," Davidson said.

Chesapeake´s traditional student population has also been boosted by a surge in the Dual Enrollment program, which affords qualified high school students the opportunity to take college classes during their junior and senior years. The program grew from 239 students in the spring of 2003 to 328 in spring of 2005.

Many of these students choose to stick with Chesapeake College for at least another year after high school graduation, according to Petrichenko. For example, enrollment figures show that 40 percent of Spring 2004 Dual Enrollment students continued taking classes at Chesapeake after their high school graduations.

Cordia Reilly, a 2005 North Caroline High School graduate, is one of those Dual Enrollment students who is making the transition to full-time Chesapeake student.

"I started in Dual Enrollment because I wanted to get a head start on college and see what it was like," said Reilly, who said several factors led to her decision to continue at Chesapeake this fall.

"I liked the environment and the fact that it was close to home," said Reilly, who plans to transfer to Salisbury University and major in exercise science. "I was a little nervous about going off to college and thought this would be a good transition instead of jumping right in at a bigger college or university."

While affordability was a major reason Weber initially selected Chesapeake, she said she´s pleased with her decision for reasons beyond cost.

"I´ve gotten to know the professors here very well and they´re providing me with good guidance. I don´t feel like I´ve missed anything by doing my first two years at a community college," said Weber. "In fact, I´ve even completed an internship in environmental studies already. Most students at four-year schools don´t have that opportunity until their junior or senior years."

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