(11/19/2017)
CHARLESTON GAZETTE - For a seventh straight year, fewer students are enrolled at West Virginia's public four-year colleges, according to an annual report presented to the state's Higher Education Policy Commission on Friday.

Chris Treadway, the commission's interim director of research and analysis, said during a Friday morning HEPC meeting that dual-enrollment students — high school students who take some college classes before graduating — have "masked" the state's enrollment decline in previous years.

"I think anybody who's not concerned about what you just presented is not in touch with reality," said Commission Chairman Michael Ferrell.

When 2008's recession hit, people in West Virginia, like most states across the country, returned to college as a hope of landing in a new career. Since then, the enrollment at the state's public colleges has steadily declined.

Most of the decreases came during the early part of that period. On the surface, it would appear the decline is stabilizing. In fact, for the past two years, higher education leaders have heralded as much.

Since the recession, colleges have greatly expanded dual-enrollment programs, where high school students can earn college credits. In 2012, there were a little more than 2,000 dual-enrollment students, the commission's report shows. That has since more than doubled and, this year, there are about 4,700 such students.

Dual-enrollment students have traditionally been presented in the overall headcount of students taking classes, giving the appearance that the state's enrollment decline has slowed more than it actually has.


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