Enrollment In Mass. Public Colleges Surging

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Enrollment in state colleges and universities in Massachusetts has hit an all-time high as more students look for an affordable diploma.

Massachusetts Department of Higher Education officials said Tuesday that there's been a 23 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment at the state's community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses between 2001 and 2011.

The state's Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland says the recent economic downtown is one of several contributing factors behind the enrollment spike.

"This spike really begins with the collapse of the financial market in 2008 and 2009 and has continued," Freeland said.

The greatest growth in recent years has been at the community college level but, over the past year in particular, the biggest enrollment increases were seen at state universities. Framingham State enrollment is up 15 percent.

"Our community colleges are bursting at the seams. We've got community colleges offering courses at midnight because that's the only time we have classrooms available," Freeland said. "We've got community colleges which have torn up parking lots and tennis courts to put temporary classrooms to accommodate students."

The enrollment growth of 18 percent between 2006 and 2010 was more than double that of the 7 percent growth at private colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

This program aired on October 18, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.