California community college enrollment has plummeted as educators ponder solutions

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) — Alarming new data shows that community college enrollment in California has fallen to its lowest level in three decades.

It’s a trend that started before the pandemic but has gotten worse over the past three years.

And now educators are trying to figure out how to get more students into junior college.

“The uncertainty of the pandemic has really caused people to reevaluate their lives in terms of whether they need to work or invest in higher education, what they need to do to support their families,” said Kathryn Jeffrey, President of Santa Monica College.

“So this is just a time of uncertainty for so many people and it’s affecting community colleges, it’s affecting higher education, period, across the country.”

The downward spiral began the year before the 2019 pandemic and continued nationwide throughout the community college system. Colleges have lost well over a quarter of a million students.

Looking at the decline in enrollment by age, 20-29 year olds together make up almost a 50% decline.

If you break down the numbers by race, you can see that enrollments for all races are down double digits across the board.

Troubled educators are trying to figure out how to reverse this trend. This is despite a free tuition offer for many students attending their first two years at a community college in California.

“Those students who qualify for a promise grant, their tuition fees are covered by the scholarship funded by the State Chancellery.”

In retrospect, between 2008 and 2009 there were nearly 3 million community college students nationwide. It dropped to 2.25 million from 2018-2019 and plummeted to 1.8 million between 2021-now.

Jeffrey says even though her college is seeing a nearly 20% drop in enrollments, she’s confident things will get better as we continue to bring the worst of the pandemic into our review mirror.

“We are able to resume more interactive services, with more face-to-face students on-site. We have planned up to almost 60% of our spring 2023 classes onsite. Before the pandemic, we had a ratio of 80% onsite classes and 20% online, so we’re getting closer to where we were before the pandemic.”

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. California community college enrollment has plummeted as educators ponder solutions

Laura Coffey

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