California Community College Students Choosing Job Over Class Likely Fueling Enrollment Drop


The steep drop in undergraduate college enrollment in California – largely due to sharp declines in community college attendance – continued for the second year in a row, a trend fueled by declining population and numbers. pandemic pressures attracting young adults to the workforce, not the classrooms.

California saw an overall drop of 6.5% in undergraduate enrollment from fall 2020 to fall 2021, above the national average of 3.5% and the sixth highest in the country after Mississippi , Alaska, Indiana, New Mexico and Delaware. When undergraduate enrollment is measured against pre-pandemic fall 2019, the drop in California is 11.4%, according to the latest data collected by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which compiled attendance trends of higher education.

The decline for community colleges in California from fall 2020 to fall 2021 is 10.6%. By comparison, the national average is 6%. Graduate enrollment in the state edged up 1.8%, compared to a 2.1% increase nationally.

Researchers believed that overall enrollment declines, nationwide and in California, would show a stronger rebound when campuses reopen after forced pandemic closures upset education.

“It continues to surprise me that undergrad numbers have not improved this fall. The fact that undergraduates overall are 3.5% lower overall than last year is really quite disturbing, ”said Doug Shapiro, CEO of the National Student Clearinghouse. “Given where we are with the pandemic, we expected the numbers to rebound at this point. … An optimist would have said that we should have regained the ground lost from last year.

In California, the trend in spring 2021 was downward with the largest drop in college enrollment across the country. Population decline was only part of the loss, the researchers said.

In a way, the fall in fall 2021 reflects good news: more community college students have transferred to four-year universities. But there were fewer incoming students, Shapiro said. And it is likely that those who could generally go to university have opted for the job market instead.

“I think a lot of students, especially community colleges and online and for-profit institutions, are responding to the job market,” Shapiro said, noting that the numbers for for-profit and online institutions have also fallen. in autumn. “Salaries have increased for low-wage and middle-wage jobs, and students see an opportunity to try and recoup money they might have lost during the pandemic. “

At California Community Colleges, the number of students has fallen from about 2.2 million in 2019-2020 to about 1.8 million in 2020-2021, a decline of 318,800 students, or 14.8%, according to the chancellor’s office. This number does not include the figures for fall 2021, which have not yet been released, due to an update in the system’s collection of registration data following difficulties in counting with precision online students.

“We made a conscious decision at the onset of the pandemic to provide colleges with the flexibility to quickly adopt online education delivery methods to better serve students in times of crisis. We didn’t have time to insist that the college’s data definitions and systems be upgraded first. We knew the data collection would be affected, but we chose students as our first priority, ”said Vice Chancellor Paul Feist.

In the Los Angeles Community College District, enrollment has dropped dramatically, Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez said at a recent board meeting. “We have lost registrations significantly this year due to a variety of factors. ”

The community college district serves a population of students who have been hit hard by the pandemic in Los Angeles County – areas that have seen spike in COVID-19 rates. The LACCD, along with other community college districts across the state, have struggled to reconnect with and recruit students who have often had to support families and take on additional jobs while juggling school throughout. of the pandemic.

The state’s community college enrollment system has also come under attack by an unknown number of bots – or fraudulent student activity – that could affect its enrollment numbers. Shapiro said the National Student Clearinghouse has worked with individual colleges to determine if potentially fraudulent students have been included in their enrollment data.

“We haven’t been able to confirm it yet, but we think a small number have, but we don’t think it was large enough to have a significant effect on our report,” a- he declared.

By comparison, California State University saw an approximately 2.3% drop in undergraduate enrollment from fall 2020 to fall 2021.


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