Amid the growing uncertainty and anxiety during the pandemic, Valley College and LACCD report enrollment drops for the new school year.
By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief
Despite a bump in enrollment during the summer, both Valley College and the Los Angeles Community College District as a whole are reporting a decreasing number of students for the 2020 fall semester.
In a recent interview with the Star, Valley President Barry Gribbons stated that enrollment for the school was down by 7 percent and an estimated 75 classes were canceled in the beginning of the semester. This is despite the more than 1,000 enrollments recorded in the week leading up to the start of the new school year — as revealed in a previous Town Hall — and in contrast to the 18 percent increase during the summer semester over the previous year’s.
According to data by the LACCD Office of Institutional Effectiveness, more than 16,900 students were enrolled in the 2019 fall semester. Given Gribbons’ estimate, this would put the current fall headcount less than 16,000, the lowest the school has seen in over five years.
“I think it was really hard to forecast what would happen,” Gribbons said. “Typically with unemployment rates high, demand increases, but being in a pandemic with a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, that may lead to lower enrollments.”
Valley’s recent enrollment numbers line up with the district’s as stated in an LACCD press release sent last Tuesday. In it, Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez said that enrollments were down by 10 percent across the district, which follows a less than 1 percent growth this past academic year and a 10 percent increase during the summer.
Typically, college enrollment tends to rise and fall depending on the state of the economy, as numbers increase during a recession. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a large degree of uncertainty among community colleges and four-year universities. According to Rodriguez, however, this impact is not all that surprising, and stated that the district will ramp up methods to get potential students enrolled.
“We will redouble our efforts in dual enrollment with local high schools and bolster adult/noncredit education and continue to reach out to the underserved student populations,” he said.
Despite the dip, the district seems to be faring better than other colleges. In the same press release, Rodriguez pointed out that 85 percent of schools in the California Community Colleges reported lower enrollment by an average of 12 percent. Across the nation, colleges are recording drops between 5 percent to 30 percent. College of DuPage, a community college in Illinois, went from a normal average of 24,000 students to 17,294 this semester, according to the Courier. Meanwhile, four-year universities are struggling to justify their high tuition costs as students ask for discounts for what they feel is a “diminished college experience.”
It remains to be seen what Valley’s final fall headcount will be. We will update this story when we receive more information.