MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) – Recent reports show college enrollment is down across the country, with community colleges being affected the most. However, higher education officials say Alabama community college enrollment is going in the opposite direction.

Alabama’s 24 community colleges saw an uptick of 6% enrollment from fall 2020 to fall 2021. Neil Scott is the director of Strategic Enrollment Management for Alabama’s Community College System. He says he expects to see the increase in enrollment continue.

“We’re up almost 17% in applications for admission from where we were this time last year. There are definitely reasons to be excited about fall 2022 as well,” Scott said.

Scott says the schools are scattered throughout the state, making it convenient for students who want to stay closer to home. He says the price tag also helps.

“We still remain the most affordable option in the state of Alabama for higher education and our students on average graduate with less student loan debt,” Scott said.

Auburn University at Montgomery Chancellor Carl Stockton says the school has remained steady with enrollment throughout the pandemic and has even seen increases recently.

“Our spring ’22 enrollment was the highest since 2011 and our summer ’22 enrollment also was the highest since 2011,” Stockton said.

He says they’ve done a lot to retain students, including putting COVID relief money toward debt relief.

“Because we were flat during the COVID era, we got a lot of CARES money that we didn’t need for lost revenue, so we were able to give back the dollars to students to stay in school,” Stockton said.

Stockton says AUM is still accepting students so they don’t have enrollment numbers totaled yet, but he expects to see the upward trend continue with his campus.

The Alabama Commission on Higher Education will release official enrollment numbers once data is available in the coming months.