Economy and enrollment

Economy impacts enrollment

Ongoing enrollment growth appropriations from the Wyoming Legislature have sparked a look at Laramie County Community College's enrollment since LCCC opened its doors in fall 1969 to its first 808 students.

In spring 2011 LCCC was the college of choice for 5,600 students.

Counting student numbers has its own lingo. "Headcount is, simply put, the actual number of students attending the college," Ann Murray, manager of institutional research and instructional services, said.

On the other hand, full-time equivalent enrollment (FTE) is the number of total credit hours taken by students divided by 12. "All our reports are annualized, which means we count in summer, fall and spring and then divide it by two," Murray said.

LCCC had 1,651 students (825.5 annualized headcount) taking a total of 1,175 credit hours (587.5 FTE) during the academic year of 1969–1970. By the academic year of 1974–1975 the college had 4,473 students (2,236.5 annualized headcount), and the student body almost tripled from 1969, taking 2,928 credit hours (1,464 FTE).

Strong economy leads lower enrollment growth

Then annualized headcount went up almost 500 from the academic year of 1973–1974, which leads to the question of: why? The U.S. went from the oil crisis in 1973 to the stock market decline 1973-1974.

"There is always a direct connection between the economy and enrollment growth," Murray said. "The economy goes down; enrollment growth goes up, and the economy goes up; enrollment growth goes down."

The academic year of 1979–1980 LCCC served 5,591 students, close to one and a half times more students compared to 1973–1974, who took 3,493 credit hours. The economy seemed to recover after an ongoing and staggering inflation during most of the 1970s, but another recession began January 1980.

By 1984–1985 7,749 students, one and half times more than in 1979–1980, visited LCCC and took 4,662 credit hours. The country recovered from the recession, inflation and high unemployment rates of the earlier years.


In 1989–1990, the college had 9,466 students with a total of 5,260 credit hours. During the last half of the 1980s, enrollment went up steadily, which could be linked to the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and President George Bush going back on his promise of "read my lips: no new taxes" by raising taxes again. It seems logical to go or return to earn a degree to find a better-paying job. In 1994–1995, LCCC had 10,076 students taking 5,771 credit hours, a relative small increase in enrollment. The 1990s was a good time in the American economy with low inflation, low unemployment and, thanks to major technological changes, rapidly growing productivity.

In the academic year of 1999–2000, LCCC had 8,456 students enrolled in 5,080 credit hours. As a confirmation of the prosperous 1990s, enrollment actually decreased nearly 16 percent. The numbers support Murray's statement of when the economy is good, LCCC enrollment decreases.

2001 marked the start of a new recession, and soon the U.S. would see ever rising unemployment rates. This also was reflected in the student enrollment at LCCC.

In 2004–2005 LCCC counted 10,674 students taking 6932 credit hours. Enrollment has grown steadily ever since, and it probably will keep rising until the economy recovers and/or new/improved technology changes industrial growth again.

Last year (2010–2011) LCCC was the academic home to 12,567 students with a course load of 8,797 credit hours. So from 1969 to 2011 the enrollment of the student body has multiplied close to eight times. Surely, it is the perfect reflection of how much a college can grow and what influences that growth.

The following is a more condensed look at the enrollment growth of LCCC.

One-year growth:

Five-year growth:

10-year growth:

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