This recession that has caused so much misery has a few bright spots in it for Mammoth, not least of which is the growth at Cerro Coso Community College.
This year is shaping up to be a good year for the college, just like every year since the recession began and a mirror of a trend that is seeing record enrollment in community colleges across the country.
“We’ve seen steady growth in the last four to five years, with an average of about six percent a year,” said Deanna Campbell, director of the Eastern Sierra College Center campus, which includes the campuses in Mammoth and Bishop.
Both campuses combined have about 500 students, split about equally, although the full-time student number is lower, about 170 students total.
The growth is fueled by all kinds of students, from young people coming to Mammoth for the lifestyle and an affordable education, to older workers hoping to upgrade their skills.
Mammoth tends to attract the former, Bishop the latter, Campbell said.
Expansion has also been helped by the fact that Cerro Coso has put a high emphasis on becoming a “transfer-track” community college, meaning the college prioritizes the kinds of classes that are core classes to get students to the college level, and enough classes that can transfer to a four-year college to make the college enticing.
“Students are finding out that they can get a high-quality education here with far less expense than most places and when you combine that with the increased class options and living in the Eastern Sierra, the college becomes very attractive,” she said.
To that end, the college has agreements with local hospitals to provide teaching and materials for a nursing program as well as other agreements with other partners, say in public safety, for the same.
“These can be expensive courses to offer, so to be able to use their, labs, their supplies and facilities is invaluable,” she said.
Private foundations, such as the Mammoth Lakes Foundation and the Bishop-based Eastern Sierra Foundation, have also been critical to the growth, she said.
Between the two of them, the foundations have provided 90 full-time student scholarships, meeting the needs of about half of all the full time students.
“Nowhere else do you see this kind of involvement and community support,” she said.