College enrollments are continuing to fall by an average of 2.3 percent, except at four-year, private, nonprofit institutions, reports the National Student Clearinghouse.
Community colleges lost 3.6 percent of students from spring 2012 to 2013. Full-time enrollment declined by 5.2 percent and part-time enrollment by 2.6 percent. The number of traditional-age students went down by only 1.7 percent, compared to 6.2 percent for students over the age of 24. That could suggest fewer adults are out of work and seeking retraining.
California’s community colleges — the nation’s largest public higher education system — have cut as much as 20 percent of courses since 2008, driving enrollment to its lowest point in two decades, concludes a Public Policy Institute of California report.
A half-million students have been shut out in recent years, reports the state community college chancellor’s office. Enrollment fell from 2.9 million students in 2008-09 to 2.4 million students in 2011-12.
Rigo Navarro, a second semester student at Chabot College in Hayward, wants to major in criminal justice and engineering, but hasn’t been able to take math or a criminal justice, reports the Oakland Tribune. In the last two years, Chabot has closed 12 percent of classes.
Statewide, the number of for-credit classes fell by 14 percent between 2008 and 2011, while non-credit classes, such as English as a Second Language, dropped by more than a third.
New students must wait to register until continuing students have chosen classes. That’s made it hard for recent high school graduates to get started at community colleges.
The number of young, first-time community college students in California fell even further behind the number of recent high school graduates between 2008 and 2011 — a trend that, combined with lower CSU and UC enrollment, “does not bode well” for the state’s workforce, the report’s researchers concluded.
The state and the colleges must come up with a long-range plan to restore the system, concluded the report, which listed raising local parcel taxes, increasing tuition significantly, helping more students get financial aid and charging more for high-demand classes as options. In addition to raising revenue, online education and larger classes could reach more students.
Senate Pro Tem Leader Darrell Steinberg has introduced a bill to let state college students shut out of classes receive transfer credits for some private-sector online courses.
Determined to raise retention rates, Klamath Community College mandated orientation and advising and eliminated late registration, reports Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed. The cost of improved retention was lower enrollment. The small college in southern Oregon saw enrollment fall 20 parent last fall, cutting state funds by $800,000, more than 7 percent of Klamath’s total annual budget.
“We have a system that doesn’t reward student success,” said Roberto Gutierrez, the college president. “It rewards seat time.”
Klamath Community College is an Achieving the Dream partner institution.
Achieving the Dream is a vocal supporter of “make it mandatory,” a refrain often used by Kay McClenney, an expert on community colleges and director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement. McClenney, backed by research, argues that mandatory orientations and advising can boost student retention rates.
For example, prior to last year, only 50 percent of students at Klamath were attending orientation. College officials said that means those students were missing out on vital information about the college and how to navigate it.
Yet many colleges resist the mandatory approach, feeling it is paternalistic and too prescriptive for the large numbers of adult students who attend community colleges, where the average age of students typically hovers around 25. And red tape and hassles, like mandatory scheduling, can discourage students who may have been on the fence about attending college in the first place.
Students who can’t make the time to go to orientation or meet with an advisor probably won’t make the time for college classes, Gutieriez believes.
Banning late registration is hard adult students, who are juggling jobs and family duties. But it’s clear that late registrants have very high failure rates.
Klamath’s new policy “resembles recent decisions by a few for-profits, including the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, which have created free trial periods” for prospective students, Fain writes. Those who realize they’re not ready for college can quit without using up financial aid, running up debt — or raising the university’s failure statistics.
Klamath’s graduation rate for first-time, full-time students is only 17 percent; another 31 percent transfers. That could improve in the future: Fall-to-winter retention rates jumped from 60 percent for first-year students to 80 percent this year.
Last year’s changes to Pell Grants are “taking a heavy toll on community colleges and their students, depressing enrollments and squeezing the pocketbooks of thousands of students, if not pushing them out of the classroom altogether,” writes Paul Bradley on Community College Week.
Some propose requiring Pell recipients to earn more credits and capping remedial courses, making it harder for students to complete a certificate or degree.
Turner Gray, a 36-year-old freshman at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York, is a single mother with two children who’s been unemployed for two years. She hopes to earn a business administration degree. But it will take longer because Pell no longer covers summer courses.
Excluding summer courses from the Pell Grant program was just one of the changes approved by Congress last June as it scrambled to plug a $1.3 billion gap in the Pell program, which has been growing for more than a decade as college enrollments have soared. The cost of the Pell Grant program doubled in cost to $36.5 billion in the four years ending in 2010, gobbling up an ever-growing share of discretionary funding of the U.S. Department of Education.
There were 19.4 million applicants for the grants last year, compared with 9.5 million a decade earlier. The changes enacted by Congress excluded about 100,000 students nationwide from the program.
At Montgomery County Community College in suburban Philadelphia, 10 percent of Pell recipients received less money or no grant at all, estimated college President Karen A. Stout. Many were enrolled in summer nursing courses designed to help students earn their degrees sooner. “Not only have the changes hurt students, but they have hurt the overall goal of college completion,” she said.
Under new eligibility limits, students can receive Pell aid for 12 semesters, down from 18. “The Pell Grant clock starts ticking while they are taking developmental classes that won’t count toward a college degree,” writes Bradley.
The change also could hurt students who have trouble transferring credits from a community college to a four-year college or university
To qualify for the maximum grant, students must come from families with an annual income of $23,000 or less, down from the previous level of $32,000.
The Pell changes resulted in lower enrollment at nearly all Mississippi and Alabama community colleges, concluded Steven G. Katsinas, director of the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. He projected larger enrollment declines when eligibility limits kick in.
With enrollment plummeting, Dawson Community College in Montana’s oil and gas belt is offering free tuition to “dual enrollment” high school students and to former students who are close to a degree, reports AP.
Dawson’s enrollment dropped 22 percent from fall 2011 to 2012; the college is down to about 259 students. At Miles Community College, enrollment fell by 9 percent to 368 students.
The Bakken oil boom is partially to blame, said DCC President James Cargill. Students who graduate from high school may be lured to higher-paying jobs in the oil fields rather than going to college.
. . . The college also is struggling to find instructors for technical programs such as diesel and gas mechanics and welding technology because people with those skills can make more money in the oil fields.
Tuition waivers will go to high school students taking college classes in the Early Start program. Under Finish Line, adults who’ve dropped out three or more year ago can take up to 10 credits tuition free.
Miles Community College is stressing training in oil, pipeline and coal jobs, such as heavy equipment operation and construction. Students also can train for high-demand jobs in computer technology and auto mechanics and for health careers such as phlebotomy, pharmacy technician and medical lab technician.
Flush with money because of the oil boom, North Dakota is spending more on higher education.
Community college enrollment dipped by 2 percent in Texas this fall, reports the Houston Chronicle. The state’s improving economy may be drawing students back to the workforce. However, public universities and for-profit career colleges, saw slight enrollment gains.
“It was a bit of a wake-up call,” said Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “We’ve been going gangbusters on enrollment since 2000.”
Areas of the state undergoing an economic boom, such as with lucrative energy jobs near the Eagle Ford Shale natural gas and oil formation, are experiencing more substantial enrollment declines than other regions.
“It’s hard to keep a student in school to get their associate’s when they can go make $65,000 a year as a truck driver,” Chavez said.
Other factors are changes in federal Pell Grant rules: Students no longer can get “year-round” aid covering the summer semester. In addition, the state has fewer 18-year-olds. Finally, students are required now to be vaccinated against meningitis, a rule that’s discouraging some potential enrollees, according to a report by the Coordinating Board.
College enrollments declined by 1.8 percent in fall 2012 — 3.1 percent at community colleges, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. For-profit colleges took the biggest hit with a drop of 7.2 percent. Enrollment fell by 0.6 percent at four-year public colleges and universities, and rose by half a percentage point at four-year private nonprofit colleges.
College enrollments typically rise and fall with the unemployment rate, notes Inside Higher Ed.
So the fact that the enrollment boom that colleges enjoyed as the economy tanked in 2008 and 2009 has begun to reverse itself is in many ways to be expected.
But that suggests that the philanthropic and government efforts to get significant numbers of adults to go to college (or to return there) to pursue President Obama’s goal of driving up the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential may not be bearing much fruit.
Enrollment declines were bigger for full-time students, compared to part-timers, and for those aged 24 and older (-3.4 percent) compared to traditional-aged students (-0.7 percent).
After seven boom years, community college enrollment growth is slowing, writes Victor M. H. Borden, a Indiana University professor of educational leadership and policy studies, in Community College Week. Full-time student enrollment declined by 6 percent in the past year, while part-time enrollment increased by .5 percent.
. . . full-time enrollments had been growing at a faster rate than part-time enrollments between 2008 and 2010, that is, during the most difficult economic years. The more recent decline, as well as the even larger decline in enrollments among the even more vocationally focused for-profit sector, may be a sign of slightly better economic conditions this past year.
Community colleges have been under heavy pressure to meet increasing demand, Borden writes. That pressure could ease. However, some worry that the enrollment decline will slow the Obama administration’s campaign to “increase the number of adults with college degrees and provide businesses with skilled workers.”
Chandler-Gilbert Community College, located southeast of Phoenix, for example, has known nothing but growth since it first opened its doors in 1987 and this year tops Community College Week’s list of fastest-growing community colleges with enrollments of more than 10,000 students. According to a CCWeek analysis, the number of degree-seeking students at Chandler-Gilbert CC jumped by 14.1 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Across the country, Wake Technical Community College, near Raleigh, N.C., ranks second among large colleges with an enrollment increase of 12.2 percent. In 2012, Wake Tech surpassed 20,000 in enrollment for the first time.
. . . On Election Day, voters in Wake County approved $200 million in bonds to expand the college, which currently has a waiting list of 5,400 students unable to get into desired classes.
Both colleges are located in areas with rapidly growing populations.
College enrollment declined by .2 percent in the fall of 2011 — the first drop in 15 years — according to preliminary U.S. Education Department data.
Enrollment dipped 2.23 percent at community colleges and 7 percent at for-profit two-year programs.
During recessions, laid-off workers often enroll in college to learn new skills or wait for the economy to improve, notes Inside Higher Ed.
So it’s possible that enrollments are leveling off (and shrinking slightly) now because the economy had begun rebounding enough by fall 2011 that some of those who had flocked to higher education during the recession began finding jobs. It’s also possible that college tuition levels — which have continued to rise in recent years, driven in part by cutbacks in state support and other traditional sources of colleges’ revenue — are pricing more students out of higher education.
According to the new data, fewer whites are in college, but more minorities. Latino enrollment is up 6.42 percent.
For-profit colleges have lost students in the face of scrutiny about graduation rates, graduates’ job prospects and loan defaults.
The community college decline could be linked to long wait lists at California community colleges.
The drop in community college enrollment could be “the canary in the coal mine . . . a sign that higher education is losing its ability to serve as the primary vehicle for economic mobility,” warns Joni Finney, a Penn education professor, on The Quick and the Ed. ”It is hard to imagine that increased employment opportunities are the cause” of the shift from full-time to part-time studies, she writes.
California’s community colleges are offering fewer classes and enrolling fewer students, according to a survey of the state’s two-year public colleges. ”More than 470,000 community college students are beginning the fall semester on waiting lists, unable to get into the courses they need,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
The system has been hit by $809 million in state funding cuts since 2008 and could lose another $338-million in the middle of the academic year, if voters reject a tax hike on the November ballot. The measure, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is ahead in the polls, but not by much, said Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin. ”Its prospects are partly cloudy with a chance of rain.”
College leaders are planning for the worst, reports the Times. Some are negotiating union contracts that allow pay cuts and furloughs if funding is cut further. Others warn they’ll cut more classes and lay off ful-time faculty if the tax measure fails.
“There is no question that the system is shrinking in terms of the number of students we’re serving but not shrinking in terms of demand,” Chancellor Jack Scott said in an interview Tuesday. “The real problem is we don’t have the financial resources to offer the courses that we could fill. In the long run, it’s going to be hurtful to the economy. These are the individuals who are going to make up the future workforce of California.”
Under the Student Success Act, which Gov. Brown is expected to sign, community colleges will give enrollment priority to students who develop an academic plan and show progress toward reaching their goals. “Requiring education plans and orientation” will help students earn the credits they need, but no more, freeing up spaces for others, says Michelle Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
However, students will have trouble developing education plans if they can’t talk to advisors. Seventy percent of colleges surveyed have reduced hours for support services, such as advising and tutoring, and 87 percent have cut support staff.
California’s community colleges have been struggling for several years, the Times notes.
Overall enrollment dropped about 17%, from about 2.9 million in the 2008-09 academic year to 2.4 million in 2011-12, and officials have estimated a further decline this year. The number of class sections decreased 24% from 522,727 in 2008-09 to 399,540 in 2011-12.
The colleges say they are being forced to cut into vital services that for many students can mean the difference between success and failure. Nearly 67% of colleges reported that students have had to wait longer for financial aid, counseling and other appointments since 2009-10, with an average wait time of 12 days. West Los Angeles College reported that it had eliminated tutoring and field trips to four-year universities and stopped publishing a student handbook.
El Camino College in Torrance is offering about 1,922 class sections this fall, down from 2,027 last year. Nearly every class has a waiting list, said spokeswoman Ann Garten.
“We have all of these students who want to take courses — high school graduates, then a whole group who had planned to go to the University of California or Cal State but can’t afford to, and with the economy, all of these people coming back to college because they need skills,” Garten said. But, she said, “we’re all being forced by the state to offer fewer courses for students.”
At East Los Angeles College, Rogelio Cervantes Jr., 20, saw more than 40 students lined up trying to add a math class that was already full. Unable to get the schedule he wanted, he takes classes from 8:20 a.m. to 10 p.m. “He plans to remain on campus and nap in his car so he doesn’t lose his parking space.”