Feb 21, 2021 - Economy

Enrollment drops at U.S. community colleges amid pandemic

Illustration of school desks, some of them cut out with nothing behind them.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Enrollment at U.S. community colleges dropped 10% from fall 2019 to fall 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic compounded on some of the problems the schools already faced, the AP reports citing data from National Student Clearinghouse.

The big picture: Students at community colleges tended to struggle to balance their education with the demands of home life even before the pandemic. But the added challenges of virtual learning and an economic downturn have led to significant drops in the number of students attending across the country.

  • Community colleges were the hardest-hit by the pandemic, as four-year universities outperformed many predictions and only saw slight decreases in enrollment.
  • Black and Native American students saw the most drastic drops in enrollment, at 13%. While enrollment also dropped 10% among white and Hispanic students.

The colleges, which often offer two-year degrees and vocational training, often attract older students who want to learn new skills. Those students are now among the hardest hit by the pandemic — many have lost their jobs or are preoccupied helping their own children with virtual schooling, the AP writes.

Worth noting: Many of the colleges have expanded food pantry and grocery programs after seeing spikes in demand for students who need them, per the AP. Some of the programs have tripled the amount of food they usually distribute.

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