Students under 20 years-old flock to their local community colleges.
By Cassandra Nava, Managing Editor
Fall 2022 enrollment numbers reveal a stark shift in demographics across the Los Angeles Community College District with students under 20 as the largest portion of community college goers.
The district saw a 16 percent increase in younger students since 2021. The population of students aged 20 and older decreased, with the 25-54 year old age group at a decline of seven percent. Valley College’s landscape shifted to match the district’s overall changes, but saw a larger increase of high school aged students — 19 percent compared to the district's 12 percent. The boom is a direct result of extensive outreach by financial aid and admissions employees.
“Our outreach team did an amazing job,” said Valley President Barry Gribbons. “Having the ability to connect with so many high school seniors in person, and have that big of an impact was huge.”
Valley dived head first into assessing the needs of various paperwork that can assist incoming freshmen. Following nearly two years of online learning, the in-person exchange of vital information for high schoolers hoping to attend college was due for an upgrade. Rather than let the students trudge over to campus, Valley decided to make their way to local high schools on a weekly basis. Employees work with small groups of students to complete FAFSA and Dream Act applications.
In February, over 2,000 students completed their FAFSA applications with help from Valley and Mission College, which is about 20 percent higher than the state average. Mission and Valley partnered up to visit all high schools within the Local District Northeast, the local group of high schools in both districts.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2016-17, students’ ages in the California Community Colleges were scattered across the board. The largest age group was 20-24 at nearly 31 percent, with under 20 year olds at nearly 27 percent. While enrollment suffers nationwide, the population of younger students increases.
The outreach for new students brought in a new wave of college goers, but Valley’s work with the dual enrollment programs has been steadily increasing the younger population. As of last year, the college was looking into assessing the exact courses and programs that would not only entice high schoolers, but fit into their general education requirements.
“Too many of our local high school students don't go on to college, and we want to change that,” said Gribbons, who partook in College of the Canyon’s dual enrollment program when he was a high schooler. “We want to make sure that all of our local high school students know that college is accessible to them. We want to make sure that they know they will be supported here at Valley [College].”