New data show enrollment in California community colleges is at its lowest point in 30 years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The system has lost about 300,000 students since 2019, an 18 percent enrollment decrease.
College of the Siskiyous in Northern California had the largest percentage drop, a 44 percent decline, from 3,371 students in 2019 to 1,882 students in 2021. Larger urban colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District also underwent staggering declines over the same time period. Total enrollment in the district fell 28 percent. Los Angeles Southwest College suffered a 32 percent enrollment drop, while East Los Angeles College lost 22 percent of its student body.
Enrollment among Native American and Black students fell the most steeply, 25.8 percent and 20.9 percent, respectively, the Los Angeles Times reported. Filipino enrollment dropped 19.8 percent, and Latino enrollment fell 18 percent. The system also lost almost a third of its students over the age of 55.
A survey of California community college students who left the system found that a third haven’t returned to college because they prioritized working, 29 percent had trouble keeping up with their courses and 22 percent needed to take care of family members or other dependents, according to the RP Group, a research organization focused on improving California community colleges.
The enrollment declines could have a major impact on future enrollment-based funding for the colleges. Campus leaders are looking to career training programs, dual enrollment and initiatives to combat food and housing insecurity as ways to bring their numbers back up, among other strategies.