RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — More students than ever before are enrolling at community colleges in the Triangle.

Wake Technical Community College, Durham Technical Community College and Johnston Community College are all seeing record enrollment numbers for the fall semester.

Aliyah Carter is one of 7,700 new students at Wake Tech this fall – a record number for the college.

“I feel like staying local, I feel like you already have a sense of where you’re at. So it’s easier to maneuver,” Carter explained.

Of the 7,700 new students at Wake Tech, 3,700 of them are participating in Wake Tech’s Career and College Promise (CCP) program, which offers high school students the opportunity to earn credits toward a college degree or credential for employment, tuition-free.

It’s also a record year for the number of Wake Tech students returning to campus from one year to the next.

Other community colleges in the Triangle are also seeing record enrollment.

At Johnston Community College, more than 4,800 new students are enrolled – a 10 percent increase from last year.

Classroom at Johnston Community College (CBS 17)

And more than 5,100 new students started at Durham Tech – an 8 percent increase from this time last year.

“We’re extremely happy to see gains specifically in areas of economic growth, as well as in our university transfer programs,” Durham Tech told CBS 17. “Particular areas we are seeing include nursing-related professions, IT, as well as our college transfer program.”

Durham Tech also told CBS 17 they’re seeing gains demographically in more men enrolling, as well as a more than 10 percent gain among Black, Latino and Asian populations.

Why is enrollment increasing?

Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls says one reason for the record numbers is the growing population in the Triangle. He says another reason is affordability.

“There was a time when community colleges lost more students than any other sector,” he explained. “Now I think we’re seeing that this is a really good time to come back after those difficult years we had with Covid.”

Banner at Durham Tech (CBS 17)

“The gains we believe represent a pause people hit during the pandemic, which they are now coming back from,” said Durham Tech.

“Mainly because of the price, I would say, that’s a big thing in a lot of people’s choices between university and technical schools,” Carter agreed.

For students like Carter, attending community college is a way to save money while working towards finding their career path.

“I’m on a transfer pathway,” she explained. “I plan to transfer to UNC Charlotte, but I wanted to get more of a ground space here. And learn what I’m actually interested in if that’s what I want to pursue later down the line.”

“It is great to see these enrollment increases, but what we care about most is the success of our students, so it will be even better news when we see them graduate,” Durham Tech said.

(Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)