By Molly Priddy, 5-04-12
||Caption: Randilyn Armstrong, right, lines up with fellow graduates during Flathead Valley Community College class of 2011 Commencement at the Christian Center in Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
Flathead Valley Community College students will receive a record number of degrees and certifications for the third year in a row as the school honors the largest class in its 44-year history.
According to the college, a total of 458 degrees and certificates will be awarded for the 2011-2012 academic year on May 11. That number includes 150 Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees, 120 Associate of Applied Science degrees and 40 certificates to spring 2012 graduates.
FVCC will also recognize 62 summer 2011 graduates and 86 fall 2011 graduates at the ceremony, along with the 310 FVCC spring semester graduates.
The class of 2011 had 388 graduates, overtaking 2010’s class of 340. In 2009, only 200 graduates received their degrees and certifications.
Kristen Jones, the vice president of instruction and student services at the college, said the bumper crop of graduates is the result of a major increase in enrollment five years ago.
“We had a huge bump in enrollment five years ago; we went up about 50 percent,” Jones said.
Though enrollment in the 2011 fall semester was down 9 percent for full-time students – a decrease FVCC President Jane Karas has attributed to students being able to find work and only enrolling part time – Jones said the number of students on campus still dwarfs the size from five years ago.
The struggling economy has played a major part in the jump in students, but Jones also said the college has been working on retaining students through new courses, scholarships, classroom innovations, learning communities and more.
The intramural sports program at FVCC has also doubled in size, she said.
“I think we’re doing a lot of things on campus to help students stay in school and want to be here,” Jones said.
Many of the new courses at FVCC were created with the input of local businesses, Jones said, to give students the training they might need to be hired in the valley. The students from the class of 2012 will be asked to fill out a survey in the summer about whether they are getting jobs in their field.
According to the college, the class that graduated last year had a job placement rate of 78 percent, with 89 percent of those placed in jobs in Montana. Of those Montana jobs, 96 percent remained in Flathead and Lincoln counties.
While enrollment may be down this year, Jones is confident FVCC will continue to see large graduating classes in the future.
“I think probably, for another couple years we’d probably see high levels of graduation,” Jones said. “We have really put a lot of effort into helping students complete their programs.”
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