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The bad news keeps rolling in: Spring community college enrollment falls 13 percent

Thursday, May 6, 2021

* Elyssa Cherney at the Tribune

Enrollment declines at Illinois colleges and universities continue to outpace other states, with community colleges shouldering the brunt of the losses, as the coronavirus pandemic looms over another school year, according to new national and state data.

The state’s community colleges saw enrollment plunge by 13% this spring compared with spring 2020, when the pandemic and schoolwide lockdowns were just beginning, according to research from the National Student Clearinghouse. Total postsecondary enrollment in Illinois dropped by 5.2% and undergraduate enrollment slid by 7.5%. All three figures are worse than the national average. […]

Many students at [Elgin Community College] had never taken online courses and needed time to adjust, Robinson said. The community college will offer more in-person classes this fall but will also continue to provide hybrid and online courses, particularly for lecture-based disciplines. […]

A different data set from the Illinois Community College Board shows spring enrollment dropped by 14.2%, or 39,715 students. The report, published in March, notes that more than 65,000 students graduated from the state’s 48 community colleges in 2020 despite the enrollment dip, the sixth highest annual graduation rate.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

12 Comments
  1. - Fav Human - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 9:44 am:

    Every high school and college student I have spoken with say they hate online learning. They find it stressful and they dont feel like they learn much.

    So why not delay if there is hope fall will be normal??


  2. - Practical Politics - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:10 am:

    It is difficult to guess what will happen next.

    Both Obama and Biden hailed community colleges as the panacea for various social ills and promised to make college attendance virtually free. Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel advocated similar policies.

    It is much more complicated than the politicians make it out to be. One size does not fit all.

    The level of instruction at community colleges varies considerably from remedial education for those poorly prepared in K-12 education and not up to math and reading levels to high school plus. In some cases, however community college students are earning real college credits at a substantial savings in tuition.

    Student attrition at community colleges is generally greater than at four year colleges and universities. Some students are uncertain about higher ed and are only sampling the waters.

    One major problem is that many community colleges in Illinois are exploiting part-time adjunct lectures to balance the budgets and to subsidize high administrative salaries.


  3. - Practical Politics - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:13 am:

    Online instruction is much harder than in person teaching. Students have to be much more motivated and self disciplined. The workload is usually greater online than in face to face classes and deadlines for assignments and tests are more rigid.


  4. - Responsa - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 10:39 am:

    For many students in pursuit of Associate and Bachelor degrees, the social aspects of their college attendance is equally as important as the actual academics since the two complement each other. This is true whether they are commuter students or students who live in/near campus. I am not surprised that on-line community college is not popular for many students and their parents.


  5. - twinmama03 - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:00 am:

    As a parent of twin-soon-to-be-graduating seniors, community college was a brief blip on our radar. One child is going to University (out of State) and the other is going to enter the trades; but will first probably take a refresher math course to help pass the apprenticeship exam. Online learning has been difficult for one child - who needs motivation and relatively easy, but frustrating for the other who is self-motivated but also was self-teaching several classes because the teachers were only assigning tasks and not actively teaching. I think many graduating seniors (and some current college freshmen and others) are tired of the online learning aspect as a full-time choice for all their classes. There is a great deal lost for these students without the personal interactions with fellow students and teachers/professors.


  6. - 47th Ward - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:05 am:

    But let them hire new faculty so they can offer four-year degrees and let them build dorms so students can borrow more money to live on campus.

    The disconnect between what is happening at community colleges and the state’s policies is large and growing.


  7. - DuPage - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:19 am:

    I see ads for 4-year out of state colleges featuring online or on campus in any combination the student wants. For a competitive price for online, many students choose a 4-year school over the community college. The community colleges have the lead in technical programs. Programs in welding, heating and air conditioning repair, automotive mechanics, truck driver training, etc., etc. are hands-on classes that can’t be done online. Community colleges offer these programs for a small fraction of private schools.


  8. - Practical Politics - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 11:38 am:

    @47th Ward:

    “But let them hire new faculty so they can offer four-year degrees and let them build dorms so students can borrow more money to live on campus.”

    I am unfamiliar with any community colleges doing that, but your description fits Chicago State and Northeastern Illinois Universities. Both built dormitories at commuter campuses while enrollment was declining.

    I agree with Responsa too. Socialization is an important part of the higher ed experience and it is difficult to replicate that remotely on Zoom.


  9. - DuPage - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 12:12 pm:

    “Free” community college involves complicated costs and revenue sources. A large amount of community college revenues are from local property taxes. How will that be figured in, will the federal government assume some of that cost?


  10. - Because I said so.... - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 2:09 pm:

    =Community colleges offer these programs for a small fraction of private schools.=

    Yes, community colleges are less expensive than private schools and slightly less than public universities. But in reality, community colleges get more money per student than the public universities.


  11. - cermak_rd - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 4:24 pm:

    One reason the community colleges have a low graduation rate is many people have no desire to graduate. They just want to take an art or music course or other enrichment activity. Still others just want to take a class or two, maybe for remedial purposes or want to learn a specific skill (say HVAC repair or ESL) without completing a degree or certificate in it.


  12. - cermak_rd - Thursday, May 6, 21 @ 4:28 pm:

    I’m wondering why instead of just distance learning, the schools didn’t make courses available to replay so that students didn’t necessarily have to be on Zoom at 9:00 or what not. When I have had online grad-school courses the deal was you could watch it when you wanted and just turn your homework on time (and take your tests). I would have loved that experience as a high school senior. I was so bored so much of the time (I was on the honor roll so it’s not like I didn’t apply myself).


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