Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vocational School Enrollment: Declining Numbers Across the Board?

In a previous post about the dropout rate in Lynn, I noticed something interesting about Lynn Vocational Technical Institute's (LVTI) enrollment over the last five years - it has declined substantially from where it was just 5 or 6 years ago. See below:

LVTI Total Population1,1531,1181,1651,066882

During the 2005-06 school year, Lynn Tech had an enrollment of over 1,100 students; by 2009-10, it had decreased to 882 students; Lynn Tech's enrollment in 2010-11 had further decreased to just 809 students.

As the emphasis in education these days seems to solely be placed on attending college and increasing the number of college graduates in the U.S., it makes sense that the enrollment at a vocational school would decline. Lynn Tech's declining numbers may not, however, be indicative of a larger trend away from vocational education. That leaves us to wonder what's happening in other vocational/technical schools across the state and how similar or dissimilar Lynn Tech's enrollment situation is when compared to other vocational schools.

Below is a table tracking the total enrollment for vocational/technical schools in Massachusetts from 2005-06 to 2009-10. Vocational schools in Massachusetts whose numbers decreased considerably over this 5 year period are highlighted in yellow.

Assabet Regional Vocational Tech916925930933963
Blackstone Valley Regional Voc Tech9239931,0451,1031,136
Blue Hills Regional Vocational Tech826851851844842
Bristol County Agricultural 430435429429441
Bristol Plymouth Regional Voc Tech1,0791,1191,1631,1951,206
Cape Cod Regional Voc Tech721686723702683
Essex Agricultural Technical 420439449442462
Franklin County Regional Voc Tech543526525517511
Greater Fall River Regional Voc Tech1,3111,3511,3541,3541,352
Greater Lawrence Regional Voc Tech1,4851,4621,2611,1701,195
Greater Lowell Regional Voc Tech 1,9351,9191,9441,9061,993
Greater New Bedford Regional Voc Tech 1,9942,0112,0222,0642,106
Lynn Voc Tech 1,1531,1181,1651,066882
Medford Voc Tech 262257252255232
Minuteman Regional Voc Tech 703653638625583
Montachusett Regional Voc Tech 1,2691,3011,3231,3411,355
Nashoba Valley Regional Voc Tech 561601619642662
Norfolk County Agricultural 457468459454470
North Shore Regional Voc Tech 457465443447451
Northampton-Smith Vocational Agricultural 457484453460464
Northeast Metropolitan Regional Voc Tech 1,2091,2581,2441,2451,249
Northern Berkshire Regional Voc Tech491516511500500
Old Colony Regional Voc Tech558582569572583
Pathfinder Regional Voc Tech657652649615645
Putnam Voc Tech 1,1631,3281,4711,5861,626
Shawsheen Valley Regional Voc Tech1,2261,2461,2581,2681,300
South Middlesex Regional Voc Tech715708638632642
South Shore Regional Voc Tech592592592548595
Southeastern Regional Voc Tech 1,2191,2021,2331,2511,257
Southern Worcester Regional Voc Tech1,0611,1061,1051,0971,115
Tri County Regional Voc Tech851896916916964
Upper Cape Cod Regional627629653648672
Westfield Voc Tech516499499482468
Whittier Regional Voc Tech1,1451,1021,0911,1781,206
Worcester Technical1,0631,1991,2681,3441,391
Wm J Dean Voc Tech 718771750663652

From this we see that vocational school enrollment is not necessarily declining at all schools. There are really only six vocational schools that showed a steep decline in students from 2005-06 to 2009-10. It is interesting to note that three of the six schools whose enrollment decreased are not regional vocational schools (Westfield Tech, Dean Tech-Holyoke, Lynn Tech). Perhaps being a city vocational school as opposed to a regional one contributes to this particular issue; because non-regional vocational schools only take students from one city, changes in the educational climate or attitude may resulting in a smaller number of students seeking a more technically oriented education. Regional vocational schools, on the hand, like North Shore Tech sometimes use an admissions process, so a decline in interest for this type of education can be off set by simply enrolling more of the students who do apply. On the flip side, some of the schools listed here actually saw huge increases in their student populations (ex. Assabet, Worcester, Putnam- Springfield). Thus, overall, there may not be a total lack of interest in vocational education in Massachusetts like we are seeing in Lynn. An important step for the administration at Tech and the school committee would be to pinpoint why students are choosing not to go to Tech (stigma, lack of knowledge about school, transportation). Highlighting the benefits of a technical education especially for those who do not enjoy more "academic" subjects could not only be one potential avenue toward reducing the dropout rate in Lynn, but would also ensure the existence of a school with a hands-on approach to learning for future Lynn youth. 

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