Rising Enrollment at Community Colleges
With the economy still recovering, community colleges have never been more popular. Over the
past two years, enrollments at community colleges have grown more than 24% nationwide,
taxing the limits of their current facilities. In response to this need, colleges have started building
Fueled by a recession, college enrollment has hit an all-time high as unemployed workers return
to learn new skills in an effort to make themselves more marketable. The numbers are
significant: according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), community
college enrollments in fall 2009 increased by 11.4% over the same period in 2008, and 16.9%
over fall 2007. Despite deep cuts to higher education budgets, the news for community colleges
has been more encouraging as President Obama has highlighted the role community colleges
play in giving all Americans have access to a college education and advanced skills training.
With that kind of broad-based support, many of the nation’s 1,200 community colleges are
exploring innovative ways to accommodate those workers returning to school while also trying
to make better use of their existing facilities.
What does this mean for the construction world?
“In Higher Education, we expect the first recovery to be in the community college market,” said
Larry Bacher, Vice President of Gilbane’s Higher Education Center of Excellence. According to
the AACC, the community college sector has added more than 2.5 million students over the last
To support that increased population, several colleges are moving forward with construction
projects despite the economy. Read about two such colleges who selected Gilbane to manage
Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Gateway Community College (GCC) is one of the fastest
growing community colleges in the state. In fact, GCC’s headcount for credit-seeking students
has jumped 60% over the past nine years. According to GCC Director of Public Relations Evelyn
Gard, “It was definitely time to build. We were already growing, and then the economy tanked
and enrollment skyrocketed.”
In January, the state of Connecticut and GCC held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $198
million downtown campus, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012. Robert Van Akin,
District Operations Manager on the project, added that the finished projectwill include a four-
story, 360,000-square-foot campus and a 600-car parking garage.
The GCC facility is the largest construction project the state has ever undertaken, and it’s the
first public building designed to be gold-certified in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design (LEED) program.
According to the client, Gilbane has proven to be a critical partner in providing construction
administration services for this very visible project. “We are really pleased with Gilbane; they
said we would see progress and we did. The professionalism we encounter is brilliant, and the
communication channels are always open,” added Gard.
Joliet Junior College (JJC) is a two-year public college in Joliet, Illinois that has experienced
dramatic increases in enrollment over the last five years—growing their enrollment by 28%
between 2004-05 and 2008-09. In each of the past three years, JJC has added nearly 1,000
students each fall.
JJC’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement Dr. Ryan Smith explains that projections,
shifts in the economy and increased attention for community colleges all created a perfect storm
for enrollment growth at JJC. “This growth has placed a strain on our ability to provide classes
and services to our students,” says Smith. “As a result, JJC initiated a facilities master plan in
2007 withthe intent of addressing the college’s current and future facility and space needs.”
The master plan started with a year of meetings and planning work with campus constituencies,
as well as several research studies including one to review space utilization. With priorities
articulated and financing in place, JJC enlisted Gilbane for construction management and
programming, and contracted with Legat Architects forthe design.
Gilbane oversaw completion of the first project in December 2009. “Gilbane has also provided
support in the coordination of major projects related to the master plan, including working with
programming committees of our staff, and assisting with a signage procedure for the campus,”
The higher education market is one of Gilbane’s strongest sectors, serving a range of clients from
Ivy League to small private college and from large state university systems to community
colleges. We work hard to build an enhanced learning environment that improves campus
recruitment and retention and helps to ensure the best possible education for college graduates.
About the Author:
Gilbane Inc. is one of the largest privately held family-owned real estate development and
construction firms in the industry. For more information please call 1-800-GILBANE or visit
Please visit http://www.buildbest.us/2010/06/rising-enrollment-at-community-colleges/ to read
the original article.