Tackling the California community college enrollment low


Aya Takase-Songui

PAVING THE WAY: College & Career Specialist Kathi Smith outlines the IVC Advisement procedure.

Riya Gupta, Staff Writer

California community colleges are currently facing a 30-year-low in enrollment due to pandemic-related demands for flexible education and economic hardships faced by prospective students.

Levels of student enrollment have been downtrending for years, with the state’s 115 community colleges facing a loss of 300,000 students since 2019, according to Ed Source. For community colleges, lower student enrollment means substantial enrollment-based funding cuts which may lead to potential faculty layoffs and service reductions on campus.

“If they take away too much money from my school, then that’s not good,” Santiago Canyon College freshman Caitlin Muller said. “But, if they only take a small amount away then it’s not as big of an issue because the campus is clean and I have all the materials I need for school.”

Local community colleges, including Irvine Valley College and Santiago Canyon College, have experienced a decline in student enrollment. In the fall of 2020, IVC lost around 2,000 students, according to the Daily Titan.

Student enrollment is dropping as colleges need adaptive scheduling to accommodate students who must balance classwork with personal commitments. A survey of former community college students by the RP Group research center found that 33% of students did not return to the classroom because of prioritizing work and another 22% of students needed to care for family members and other dependents.

Many of our students work. They also take care of their kids, and have parents to care for. Convenience [in class scheduling] matters.”

— Santa Rosa Junior College president Frank Chong

“Many of our students work,” Santa Rosa Junior College president Frank Chong said to the Los Angeles Times. “They also take care of their kids, and they have parents to care for. Convenience [in class scheduling] matters.”

To combat sharp drops in community college enrollment, Gov. Newsom signed AB 928 in the fall of 2021 intending to increase transparency in CSU and UC admissions by establishing a general education pathway for transfer admissions from a community college.

“Everyone deserves a shot at the ‘California Dream,’” Newsom said in a press release. “We’re eliminating equity gaps and increasing opportunities at our universities to make those dreams a reality for more California students.”

As a result of AB 928, the UC Promise Program, starting this year, may help boost enrollment levels for community colleges by expanding admission access to typically disadvantaged students. Those with a qualifying 3.0 grade point average from high school who failed to meet the UC’s freshman requirements can complete required courses for guaranteed admission at a local community college. Those who meet the transfer program’s coursework and GPA requirements will be guaranteed a spot at one of six UC campuses, including Davis, Merced, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.

I’ve met so many wonderful people and all the professors are amazing as they genuinely enjoy teaching. ”

— IVC freshman Diego Moreno

For many students, the wide array of new programs and transfer options have made community college a decision that ultimately depends on the individual. Regardless, students often find the learning experience enjoyable and diverse.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people and all the professors are amazing as they genuinely enjoy teaching,” IVC freshman Diego Moreno said. “I expect to learn and expand my knowledge when going to class while also fostering lifetime friendships.”