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BCCC enrollment down more than expected

| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Enrollment at Butler County Community College last year declined faster than school officials anticipated.

“We assumed there might be a 2 percent decline. It was a 9 percent decline,” said James Hrabosky, the school's vice president for and administration and finance.

There are several reasons for the decline. At least one surprised school officials, Hrabosky said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people 26 and younger are eligible to stay on their parents' health insurance policies.

Previously, college age students had to be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester to remain on their parents' policies, he said.

“In the past, staying on a family health insurance plan was a reason for at least some students to enroll in school,” Hrabosky said.

“That was something we never expected, and it surprised us.”

Enrollment during the 2012-13 school year was about 3,700, down from 4,400 in the previous year.

The decline also reflects shrinking high school graduating classes from Butler County schools and the increased difficulty of obtaining federal student loans and grants, Hrabosky said.

About 60 percent of the school's budget is funded by tuition, he said.

The college's board of trustees last month unanimously passed a $27.3 million budget, $300,000 more than the 2012-13 budget.

The budget cuts overall spending by 17 percent, Hrabosky said.

The budget increases tuition by $5 per credit hour and adds a separate fee of $5 per credit hour. That brings tuition for Butler County residents to $124 per credit hour and to $217 for nonresidents. The majority of the school's students are from Butler County, according to Susan J. Changnon, the school's director of communications and marketing.

In September, the school will open BC3 @ Brockway in Brockway, Jefferson County. The 14,000-square-foot facility will include classrooms, a biology, anatomy and geology lab, a conference room, student lounges and an outdoor patio.

It will serve students from Clarion, Clearfield, Elk, and Jefferson counties.

“There are only 14 community colleges in Pennsylvania. There is a lot of demand for them. We have to be the affordable alternative,” Changnon said.

Butler County Community College also offers classes in Cranberry and in Mercer and Lawrence counties.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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