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More Money, Less Students

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Flathead Valley Community College is seeing highs and lows: a peak $6.8 million dollar endowment, coupled with a lull in student enrollment.

FVCC has been in the news a lot lately for receiving millions of dollars in grant money, so it may come as no shock to hear that the College's endowment has doubled since 2008. However, less students are able to take advantage of this nearly $6.8 million. Right now, FVCC is down about 7.8% in enrollment over last year, meaning around a hundred less students in class.

"Historically, there's a real strong relationship between the unemployment rate here in the valley and our enrollment," said Brad Eldredge, the executive director of institutional research at FVCC.

According Eldregde, the higher the unemployment rate climbs, the more students enter--or re-enter--the classroom. When the recession hit back in 2009, enrollment increased by over 50% as the jobless rate surpassed 13%. Even with the decreasing enrollment in recent years, there are still more students on campus than before the recession in 2008, who all benefit from an enlarged endowment, according to executive director of institutional advancement at FVCC, Colleen Unterreiner.

"What it really says is it establishes a very bright future for FVCC in the long run," said Unterreiner.

Unterreiner says several private gifts, the largest clocking in at $2 million, have allowed the College to invest in a recovering market and give the earnings back to students through scholarships.

"That's really what endowment is all about. You can see that, 'hey, when I'm not here anymore, my gift to the college, my investment, is going to continue to go on and on,' which is really a beautiful thing for the College," said Unterreiner.

Eldredge does not blame the government shutdown for diminished enrollment since federal funding has not yet been pulled for Pell grants and other vital sources of financial aid for FVCC students.

The Flathead Valley's unemployment rate, as of July, is around 6.1%--less than the national rate.

Even with the declining enrollment numbers, FVCC is still instructing 13% more students than they were before the recession.

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