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What We Can Do About Community College Enrollment Declines



Quick facts:

  • 11.8% drop in enrollment for public-two year institutions during the pandemic

  • 53% of students are not ready for undergraduate studies after high school

  • 70% of California students fail to graduate or transfer to a four-year college

Community colleges have been facing enrollment problems since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic which has only continued into the Spring 2022 semester with public two-year institutions seeing a 7.8 percent drop in student enrollment according to the latest report by the National Student Clearinghouse. In the same report, community college enrollment declined in the pre-pandemic era as well with the data showing a 3.4 percent drop in enrollment in 2019.


Why has enrollment declined in community colleges in the past few years? The drop in students enrolled is alarming especially since some sectors of the labor market require a degree to secure a job after college. In order to understand why enrollment is dropping, we need to first understand the issues community colleges face to gain more insight:

  • Underprepared students

  • Low graduation rates

  • Not connecting the learning experience

Before we consider increasing the number of students enrolling in community college, we need to fix the holes in the system itself.


As enrollment declines, colleges and universities are left with one question: how do we increase future enrollments? Let's dive into the biggest problems facing two-year institutions and what we can do to fix them.


Problems Community Colleges are Facing


Underprepared students

Before we consider how to increase the number of students enrolled in two-year colleges, we need to first understand the issues they face. Students entering community colleges are finding themselves at an academic disadvantage because of the lack of proper preparation for college while in high school or from older students who decided to seek a degree later in life.


This disconnect from the skills learned as high school students mean schools are forced to remediate parts of their student body so they can find some success in higher education.