With students these days looking to save money and get the most out of their higher education experience, it's no wonder that enrollment at local community colleges has gone up since the economy started going down.

One of the more popular choices for Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high school graduates is Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Located about 15 miles down the Loop 202, CGCC offers a wide variety of degrees and classes, including the unique learning communities program.

Learning communities offers students the opportunity to take two, usually unrelated classes. For example, "Molecules, Membranes and Me" combines First-Year Composition and Biology. While they are separate classes, the coursework in one class will complement the coursework in the other.

"It's like killing two birds with one stone," said Laura Jandebeur, student service specialist at CGCC. "The two teachers often times know each other and work well together to reinforce the learning done in either class."

Some of the other learning communities classes include "Aztlan to Zoot Suit: Exploring Narratives of Mexican American History & Culture," "Freedom and Terror: Cultures in Conflict" and "Drugs, Death and Debauchery: Stories from the American Road."

While the learning communities program is one of the things that makes CGCC unique, it's the staff that makes the experience a good one for incoming freshmen, Jandebeur said.

"We are known for being very personable," she added.

CGCC saw a jump from 6,217 students in 2000 to more than 13,000 this year, according to the Maricopa Community Colleges website. They currently serve 526 students from Ahwatukee Foothills, including 91 incoming freshmen this year from Desert Vista and 46 from Mountain Pointe.

"Re-entry students are returning to school to update their skills and re-career," Trish Neimann of CGCC said in an email. "And community college has become the more affordable option for high school graduates."

CGCC also offers help for an easy transition to any of the state colleges if and when students decide to transfer.

To find out more about learning communities and the other CGCC programs, visit their website, www.CGC.edu.

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