By: Sarah Snyder
They're bringing in the extra desks. Midland, Odessa, and Howard Colleges all report record enrollment for the spring semester. And it's all thanks to the changing oil economy.
"As they shut down rigs, we have more and more students," Dr. David Bauske with Odessa College said.
They're leaving the oil fields and heading for the classroom.
"Community college enrollment almost always increases when the economy turns south," Dr. Bauske said.
Odessa College reports their enrollment this spring is up 400 from the fall semester.
"More people are going back to school to learn new skills or to get a higher degree," Dr. Bauske said.
Midland College tells us their numbers jumped to over six thousand students, an all time high.
"People are starting to look around and they're starting to wonder, 'What can I do to help myself, help my family to be a little bit more secure,'" Dr. Richard Jolly with Midland College said.
Howard College says they're still waiting on the final figures, but early estimates indicate they're up over one hundred students from last year.
"Traditionally people go to school when the economy is bad," Dr. Jolly said. "And when the economy is good, they'll go to work."
Many of the new students at Odessa College came from the Flint Hills plant, workers hoping to make a change.
"We have some students that come back after one degree, after another degree, after another, after another in different fields," Dr. Jolly said.
There's so many new students, schools are searching for additional faculty.
"Our instructural divisions have had to hire more instructors," Dr. Bauske said.
And Midland College says their students prove you're never too old to learn.
"It's students of all ages, from right out of high school to upper 60's and maybe even 70 years old," Dr. Jolly said. "We have them in all majors. It's just a neat place to be."
One of the reasons enrollment has been so high this year is because of online classes.
Odessa College says online learning was more popular than ever. It allows students to study at home while holding down a fulltime job.
And Midland College says they've got twenty percent more students in their online courses than last year.