Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies


Educational Administration

First Advisor

Katherine Chaddock


The idea that high unemployment rates give rise to higher enrollments for community colleges is widely accepted (Sundberg, 1998). However, according to Betts and McFarland (1995), not much is known empirically about the role that economic factors play in determining two-year college enrollment. Only a few states have included cyclical variables in their student enrollment models, and those states seldom, if ever, analyze the long-term influences of the business cycle (Betts and McFarland, 1995). Colleges that accurately determine how unemployment rates affect enrollment can use this information to improve marketing endeavors as well as short-and long-term strategic planning. Community college leaders in particular can benefit from knowing whether key economic variables such as unemployment, personal income, and gross domestic product (GDP) have an effect on enrollment (Sundberg, 1998).

The purpose of this study was to add to the body of knowledge about the relationship between enrollment in two-year colleges and variables concerning national and state unemployment rates, GDP, and personal income over an eight-year period (2001-2008). Spearman's rho correlation coefficient (Spearman's rho) analyses were used to examine the strength of the relationships and statistical correlation between the independent variables (i.e., unemployment, GDP, and personal income) and the dependent variables (i.e., total student headcount enrollment, academic program enrollment, and demographically segmented enrollment).

The findings revealed some striking similarities in the manner in which economic variables affect enrollment in both the SCTCS and VCCS. For example, student headcount enrollment did not have a strong positive relationship with unemployment rates in either state. However, the large majority of the results highlighted major differences among the states; therefore, it can be concluded that economic variables affect enrollment in rural and urban community and technical college systems differently. These differences give rise to future research which examines how economic conditions affect community and technical college enrollment in other rural and urban states.