BY ANNE STANTON
TRAVERSE CITY — For the second year in a row, enrollment dipped at Northwestern Michigan College, an apparent reflection of the nation's strengthening economy.
NMC President Tim Nelson said enrollments fluctuate inversely to economic conditions. In rough times, students are more likely to choose a community college with its more affordable tuition rates and local commute. Unemployment also plays a part with jobless folks often turning to the community college to learn new workplace skills.
NMC's most recent student numbers totaled 4,734, down 3.9 percent from last year's spring semester total of 4,917 students. NMC officials anticipated the slight drop; community colleges across the state are seeing similar declines, said NMC spokesman Andy Dolan.
In contrast to the last two years, NMC saw a record-breaking spring enrollment of 5,194 students in 2011, a 1 percent climb from the same period in 2010.
Many students use NMC as a stepping stone to bachelor's and master's degrees, including those offered through the University Center, which houses nine partner state universities on a separate campus. About 1,500 students each year take classes there, Dolan said.
NMC also offers professional certificates and associate degrees, including specialties in culinary arts, maritime, aviation, robotics, renewable energy, manufacturing, construction, and automotive service technology.