Monday, January 24

US Community Colleges See “Chilling” Enrollment Decline During Pandemic | US Universities

David Ramirez, a student at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California, struggled to balance work and classes during the pandemic. Ramírez, who works at Starbucks, worked at least 30 hours a week in addition to his classes.

He was not alone. The number of students enrolled in community colleges (local educational establishments that offer two-year courses and are often seen as an affordable stepping stone to higher education) fell 9.5% last spring, some 476,000 students less than in the Spring 2020, according to National Student Clearinghouse data released last month.

The drop has experts concerned about the long-term impact of the pandemic on the underprivileged. During recessions, community college enrollment tends to increase as those left unemployed go back to school. But the disproportionate impact Covid-19 had on low-income, non-white Americans, populations that community colleges tend to serve, caused a drop in community college attendance during the pandemic.

“I didn’t really have the option to stay virtual and work from home, so I was essentially exposed to this virus every day. That was a lot to drive on a day-to-day basis and then go home and try to work on school work, ”Ramírez said. “That’s the everyday experience for students, especially since financial aid for community college doesn’t really cover the full cost of attendance.”

The online classes, especially for science, technology, engineering, and math (Stem) subjects, were particularly frustrating to administer as the material was difficult to learn virtually.

“I imagine a lot of students just gave up,” he said.

While overall college attendance fell 5%, or 727,000 students, this spring compared to last year, as many students opted out of e-learning, community colleges saw the steepest drops in comparison. with four-year institutions and graduate schools. Enrollment in graduate schools actually increased 4.6% compared to last year.

The youngest students in the schools, ages 18-24, saw most of the tuition drops at community colleges. data The National Student Clearinghouse has shown a 6.8% decrease in graduates of the class of 2020 who attended college immediately after high school compared to the class of 2019.

This means that while college degree students were earning advanced degrees in large numbers, many high school graduates chose not to attend college this entire year.

Davis Jenkins, principal investigator and research professor at Columbia’s Teachers College, said the decline in college enrollment among students graduating from high school is “chilling.”

“Delaying college really lowers your chances of completing college,” Jenkins said. In particular, if community college enrollment is declining, “you take away the opportunity to go to college for millions of students.”

“The gap between the education you have and the education you don’t have is going to widen.”

Community college students represent approximately 40% of all undergraduate students in the country, totaling 8.2 million in more than 1,400 community colleges, most of which are public institutions.

Many students who choose to attend community college at a four-year institution do so because tuition can be thousands of dollars cheaper. Two-thirds of community college students come from families with household incomes of less than $ 50,000, and approximately 45% are students of color.

Low-income Americans were the hardest hit by the economic repercussions of Covid-19 compared to middle and high-income Americans, being more like lose their jobs and remain unemployed during the course of the pandemic. The number of victims of the pandemic also disproportionately affected African Americans and Hispanic Americans, who saw Covid mortality rates they were at least twice as tall as white Americans.

In a survey of approximately 25,000 students, community college students were more likely to drop all plans for college compared to students enrolled in four-year colleges. They were also more likely to have contracted, to be concerned or concerned about someone who had the virus and to be concerned about the affordability of college.

Administrators at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, heard similar concerns from students who were busy taking care of their family or working and did not see the benefit of attending virtual classes. The school saw a 17% decrease in enrollment last year.

“They were definitely affected by this, whether it was a family member who might have contracted Covid or they hired Covid, or someone in their family lost a job and they had to go to work instead of going to school,” he said Karen Miller. Chancellor and Executive Vice President of Access, Learning and Success at Cuyahoga Community College. Some students were concerned about inconsistent Wi-Fi or a lack of quiet spaces to study at home.

Miller said the community college had begun efforts to re-enroll students in the fall, calling, emailing and texting them to let them know that the school will return with at least 50% of the classroom capacity.

“We are trying to re-engage them and let them know that we are going to have opportunities on the ground, more classes on the ground and open our service footprint again in August,” Miller said. “We hope to see [students] come back this fall. “

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