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Enrollment at Nicolet College climbs after COVID slump

Nicolet College Facebook

Enrollment at Wisconsin’s technical colleges rose about 10 percent during the last academic year. The increase marks a reversal of sharp COVID-era declines.

Enrollment increased at every school in the Wisconsin Technical College System during the 2021-22 school year.

But Nicolet College in Rhinelander saw the biggest uptick, with enrollment up more than 20 percent last academic year.

“Our largest gain last year was in our continuing education program for adults and professional development,” says Erika Warning-Meyer, the Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs. “This is programming we may not have been able to offer in the 2020-21 academic year because of COVID-19. It also tells us that people are very interested in growing in their skillset and probably employers are interested in people continuing to do so as well.”

Despite the large gains in enrollment though, Nicolet College is still not seeing pre-COVID numbers.

In fact, during the 2020-21 school year, Nicolet saw a 32 percent drop in student enrollment. It was the largest decline in the entire Wisconsin Technical College System, as the school’s continuing education classes took a major hit.

That decline was particularly steep, but it’s part of an overall trend of decreasing enrollment at technical colleges over the past decade.

Since 2012, the number of students enrolled in the Wisconsin Technical College System has dropped by nearly 25 percent. That’s 88,000 fewer students.

Warning-Meyer says that’s a reality technical colleges have to face.

“The value of higher education is in question right now, and we need to make sure we’re being valuable partners to our community and to our state and to our constituents,” she says. “I don’t think we can do what we were doing 10 years ago. I don’t think any college can do what they were doing 10 years ago.”

That’s the focus of Nicolet and the state’s other technical colleges as they turn toward the next 10 years of continuing education.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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