Berkshire Community College’s fall enrollment saw its biggest increase since the school started keeping records

PITTSFIELD — Community college enrollment rose across Massachusetts during the fall 2023, and Berkshire Community College was a big part of that statewide trend.

The college reported a 17.5 percent increase in students, from 1,367 in fall of 2022 to 1,607 for the semester just ended. That’s the largest percentage increase since BCC started tracking enrollment in 1991, spokesman Jonah Sykes said.

Last week, the state Department of Higher Education said that based on preliminary data, the state’s higher education system — the five UMass campuses, nine state universities and 15 community colleges — saw a 3 percent increase over fall 2022. That’s the first systemwide increase since the fall of 2013.

Those state figures show BCC with a 2.3 percent increase rather than the 17.5 percent increase the school reported last month. But the state report is based on early enrollment data, according to Adam Klepetar, the school’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.

Nicole Giambusso, DHE’s director of strategic communications, confirmed that BCC’s figure was accurate.

“Final fall enrollment numbers, inclusive of that 17 percent number, will be posted on our website in the new year,” she said.

The data is based on head count, meaning that it represents any student enrolled for credit, regardless of the number of registered credits.

Community colleges were the biggest winners in the state higher education system, with an 8 percent increase across the board, according to preliminary figures.

While Klepetar stopped short of attributing the increase to any one factor, he listed a number of potential causes:

• The MassReconnect program, which provided scholarships for adult students 25 or older who never enrolled in college or left without completing a degree program. According to the school, 47.5 percent of its matriculated students are in the age group eligible for the program.

• The growing popularity of dual enrollment among high school students taking BCC classes for credit. 

• Scholarship support for the college’s nursing programs.

• Increased online class offerings.

Klepetar also credited the school’s recruiting and retention efforts, particularly those aimed at students who stopped short of earning a credential and had been out of class for more than a year.

After working with Motimatic, a company that helps colleges and universities increase recruitment and enrollment, BCC saw “a really big spike in re-admitted students,” Klepetar said.

“MassReconnect is going to be a shot in the arm for students who may not have otherwise enrolled in college due to financial concerns,” Klepetar said. “But there are also major efforts right here at BCC, including great marketing, improved data analytics that helped us focus our recruitment and retention efforts, and our partnerships to recruit stop-out students.”

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