Virginia public colleges expect slower enrollment growth over next 6 years

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RICHMOND, Virginia — Enrollment growth at Virginia's public colleges and universities is expected to slow over the next six years, unlike private institutions in the state.

Overall, public two- and four-year schools expect a 5 percent increase by 2021-2022. Four schools anticipate a decline in enrollment.

The forecast is brighter at private, nonprofit higher education institutions. Enrollment growth at these schools is expected to grow by 32 percent — largely due to the growth of online programs at Regent and Liberty universities.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch ( ) reports public and private institutions submitted enrollment projections to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. If the projections hold, Virginia would see 11 percent enrollment growth overall, from 530,213 students last academic year to 590,894 by 2021.

The projections are raising some concerns amid the push to ensure Virginia can meet the economic demand for a more educated workforce. Still, officials should not worry just yet, SCHEV Director Peter Blake said.

The largest enrollment dip is in the Virginia Community College System's projection, which anticipates 3 percent growth by 2021 after an anticipated four years of declining enrollment.

"Community colleges are notoriously difficult to project, because they ebb and flow with an unpredictable economy," Blake said.

The four public schools predicting slight enrollment decreases by 2021-22 are Christopher Newport, Norfolk State, University of Virginia's College at Wise and Virginia Military Institute. Five others — James Madison, Longwood, Mary Washington, Virginia Tech and the two-year Richard Bland College — project increases of 10 percent or greater.

Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason project 7 percent growth.

Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch,

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