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Community college enrollments dropping; Tri-C launching 'Jobs First' program to meet student needs

Tri-C sees decline in recent fall, spring semesters
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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 07:10:48-04

CLEVELAND — The pandemic impacted college enrollment, according to new numbers released earlier this week.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed a big drop in community college enrollment across the country.

"Overall spring enrollment fell to 16.9 million from 17.5 million, marking a one-year decline of 3.5 percent or 603,000 students, seven times worse than the decline a year earlier," the survey concluded. "Over 65 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment losses occurred in the community college sector."

Cuyahoga Community College's numbers reflect those drops.

"Well, there's a ripple, obviously, always. But it affects our bottom line and what we have to work with, in terms of our budget," said Karen Miller, provost and vice president at the school.

Normally, the school has between 20,000 and 23,000 students enrolled. During the pandemic semester - Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 - those numbers dropped. Numbers from the school show enrollment in the fall was 18,754 and this past spring semester it was 16,970. Enrollment is open right now for students.

"I've been a student here for two years. I'm studying kinesiology," said Joseline Navarro. "I'm supposed to have two years left but if I do the summer semester it will shorten it so hopefully that works out."

She was at the school's Metro campus waiting to enroll in classes.

She said going to Tri-C is a good balance for her schedule.

"I'm a professional wrestler. I travel a lot for wrestling," she said.

The school surveyed students and found many were choosing between work and school. Miller said for community college, enrollment is tied to the economy. Normally, she sees a correlation between more jobs and fewer enrolled students. Learning from students' problems during the pandemic, Tri-C is launching a Jobs First program which will support students to get jobs before graduation.

As the school saw an impact on the budget, Navarro saw an impact in her classes.

"So, it's like a pro and a con to it. The pro to it is, because it is less people, the professor can hands-on with you a little more," she said. The con is faculty positions weren't filled after retirements and some classes weren't offered.

"I've got a whole list of things I still need to take," Navarro said as she waited to enroll. But an enrollment counselor didn't show up. Her 11:15 a.m. appointment was pushed to 4 p.m.

She was told other appointments ran over. But, for Tri-C, busy enrollment could be a good sign.

"We're watching the numbers month by month," Miller said.

She said the school is expected to hit its target enrollment number, 21,000, for the fall semester.