Student enrollment is down at three of the region’s four colleges this semester, but that isn’t bad news, according to school officials.

The decline is attributable to the economy improving and large graduating classes, they said.

Northeast State Community College’s fall enrollment declined 0.8% compared to 2018, with 6,085 students enrolled this semester.

“The slight decline is likely a result of the continued strong economy and improved student success rates, which means students are completing their studies at community colleges faster — either graduating or transferring on to four-year universities — rather than staying enrolled longer at our colleges,” said Russ Deaton, Tennessee Board of Regents executive vice chancellor for policy and strategy.

Across the state line in Abingdon, Virginia, Virginia Highlands Community College’s overall enrollment is down 0.41% this semester compared to last fall with 1,424 students enrolled, but spokeswoman Kellie Crowe said college officials are “extremely pleased” with enrollment. High school students taking college classes, known as dual enrollment, is down, but it’s expected to increase in the spring with more class offerings. Regular enrollment is up.

“At a time when college enrollment is experiencing a national slump, we’re not only holding our own, we’re experiencing growth,” Crowe said. “You can literally feel the enthusiasm on campus as we prepare for 2020 and the arrival of our new president.”

Adam C. Hutchison was selected as the college’s next president in October and will begin in January.

At the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, enrollment is down about 4%, according to Chris Dearth, vice chancellor for enrollment management, but it’s due to large graduating classes.

“Our incoming classes haven’t been as large and so that’s one of the areas that we are tackling with a new recruitment plan and a new marketing plan,” Dearth said.

There is typically an uptick in spring semester enrollment because teachers attend the college for certification classes, Chancellor Donna Price Henry said.

King University saw a slight increase in enrollment this semester with 26 more students.

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