Imagine what a crowd of 5,300 people would look like.

Larger than many Maine towns, such a crowd would draw attention anywhere it formed.

People would want to know what the members of the crowd wanted — what drew them together and motivated their gathering.

Well, according to the president of the Maine Community College System, John Fitzsimmons, 5,300 is the number of Mainers who wanted to study at community colleges this year and couldn’t get in because there was no room.

That’s rejecting a lot of people who are seeking self-improvement and economic betterment, and Fitzsimmons wants changes that will make such rejection unnecessary.

In his biennial report to the Maine Legislature Wednesday, Fitzsimmons said his goal was to expand the capacity of the state’s seven community colleges and 10 satellite facilities from the current capacity of 18,000 students to 25,000 over the next five to seven years. That would be an increase of about 30 percent, a huge jump.

Citing an established link between “educational attainment and economic prosperity,” the president said that in Maine, “the link is broken.” That’s because, he said, the state is expected to require an additional 61,000 advanced-degree holders by 2018, and it has no way to produce them right now.

Still, expansions at the former site of the Brunswick Naval Air Station and at Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield will add 3,000 students to the system, and other initiatives to help people with some college courses acquire degrees also will help.

Community colleges are the logical place for this, he said, because they have lower tuition rates than four-year schools and can accommodate part-time and commuter students more easily. The expansion he wants will require new investments in coming years, but they will have substantial paybacks.