College enrollment up slightly

Fall enrollment news was mostly positive for Howard College, officials disclosed.The junior college district had 4,852 students enrolled at all campuses, an increase of slightly more than 1 percent from this time last year, College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks said.Most of the increase can be attributed to enrollment spikes at SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf and the district's Lamesa campus; enrollment at the Big Spring and San Angelo campuses were fairly static compared to the previous fall.“We're pleased that we continue to see growth throughout the district,” Sparks said. “We're particularly excited about what is happening at SWCID and Lamesa. Our San Angelo and Big Spring campuses appear to be stabilizing after a stretch of record growth … Overall, we are very satisfied with these numbers.”The only fly in the ointment, so to speak, is a recorded decrease in contact hours — hours students spend in classrooms or labs — which is down 4 percent from the previous fall, Sparks said.Contact hours are of particular importance to college officials because that is the main figure the Legislative Budgeting Board uses when determining how much state money will be allocated to the individual colleges.Sparks said the figures, while unwelcome, were not totally surprising.“Certainly, when you see a drop in contact hours … that usually translates into a decrease in the allocation we receive,” Sparks said. “However, we had anticipated some of that and we'll continue to watch the situation closely.”