The number of first-time freshmen in West Virginia’s public community colleges jumped 10 percent from last fall to this fall, the first semester in which the state has offered its free tuition program for those colleges.

In another bright spot, the overall number of high-schoolers taking courses through the nine public community colleges surged 27 percent. The number increased from about 430 to 1,000 at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

“We’ve actually gone out and deliberately built, throughout our main catchment area, deliberate relationships with principals and guidance counselors,” WVU-Parkersburg President Chris Gilmer said. He said the school is using seven early-college models.

The enrollment figures were released Thursday by the state’s higher education oversight agencies.

Individual community colleges saw vast differences in how many first-time freshmen they gained, or, in a couple cases, lost.

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