Home News ‘It’s just too much’: Why students are abandoning community colleges in droves – The Hechinger Report

‘It’s just too much’: Why students are abandoning community colleges in droves – The Hechinger Report

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With first-time enrollment down 21 percent, two-year colleges face an existential question: Will students return?

Community colleges have traditionally been a refuge where recent high school graduates — and adults of all ages — could pick up credits and develop new skills during a poor job market. Enrollment at two-year schools swelled during the downturn a decade ago. Many expected a similar rush during the pandemic.

That didn’t happen. Fall enrollment at community colleges was down 10 percent from a year earlier, according to National Student Clearinghouse data from mid-December. That was a much steeper decline than the roughly 1 percent drop-off in undergraduates at public and private nonprofit four-year institutions, despite predictions that more students might opt for colleges closer to home before transferring to four-year schools. The decline in first-time enrollment at community colleges was a staggering 21 percent. Black, Hispanic and Native American first-year students showed even steeper drops in a November report, between 28 and 29 percent.

Many factors are behind the plummeting enrollment at two-year schools. The prospect of in-class learning raises the specter of Covid-19 infection. Remote instruction has worn out its welcome for many.

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