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Community college enrollment drop tapers off

College enrollment numbers are still down, but there is an end in sight.

By Mickie Shaw, Multi-Media Editor

The spiraling downward trend in enrollment at the Los Angeles Community College District and at Valley College may have hit a plateau.

Following a national trend since 2013, LACCD enrollment has been falling. A 2017-2018 LACCD enrollment chart showed drops at seven of its colleges: Valley, Pierce, Harbor, Los Angeles Trade, East LA, City and Southwest.

Valley enrollment has dropped only 1 percent, while the rest of the LACCD decreased by 3 percent as of last fall. From 2014 to 2018, Valley enrollment dropped from 27,880 to 26,658, causing Valley to offer fewer classes because of the lower student count.

“It appears that the trend of declining enrollment may be plateauing, though it is too soon to know for certain,” said Valley Dean of Academic Affairs Matthew Jordan. “Our enrollment numbers may still increase.”

The decline is believed to be due to the strong U.S. economy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported for September 2018 that the unemployment rate was at 3.7 percent with 134,000 jobs added to the workforce.

“As the economy picks up and improves and is very strong, community college enrollments drop,” Jordan said. “Often times the drops are in older students. It’s not the 18 to 22 year olds, it’s the 24 year and plus. That kind of aligns with our understanding of the age range that would come back to retool for a new career, to enhance their career, their job opportunities.”

Nationally, the cost of school tuition and the reduced funding for federal financial aid may be factors causing the lower enrollment at community colleges. However, California community colleges are in a unique circumstance, because it has one of the lowest tuition fees in the United States at $48 per unit since 2009, and over the next three years, the Student Centered Funding Formula will be implemented. Under the plan, funding for the community colleges will remain at 2017-2018 academic year levels.

Valley conducts high school outreach and recruitment, advertises on social media, radio and television in an effort to attract new students and boost enrollment numbers.

Enrollment numbers for undocumented students across LACCD has increased 754 students since 2015, which includes credit and non-credit students. Valley saw a decrease of 34 undocumented students during the same time period.

Some students see an upside to the lower enrollment. Roxsan Cadenas, a 20-year-old studio art major, said, “I think the teachers have more time during office hours for the students.”

But other students believe the classroom experience will be diminished and will hurt people in the long run.

“You miss out on other people’s ideas,” said Karen Cortez, a 20-year-old psychology major. “If we are not getting the education we need, how are we going to progress in the future?”

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