Pandemic impact continues at Cal State with fall 2022 enrollment decline
Ashley A. Smith
November 23, 2022
Undergraduate enrollment in California State Universities continues to suffer from a pandemic-induced drop as fewer transfer students arrive from the state’s community colleges.
Despite first-time freshman numbers rebounding to their pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, the decreases in transfer are having an impact on the 23 Cal State campuses.
“We now face a challenge that requires our collective and immediate attention, as well as the resolve to be nimble and creative in our adaptations,” interim Chancellor Jolene Koester recently told trustees about the system’s enrollment challenge.
Overall undergraduate enrollment for the Cal State system fell once again, to 404,820 students this fall — about 17,500 fewer students than the previous year. The decline continues a trend that started last year. Despite the pandemic, CSU saw enrollment gains in 2020, but by 2021, 17 of 23 campuses saw declines. This fall, only three campuses saw a slight uptick in enrollment: Cal Poly Humboldt, CSU San Bernardino and San Diego State.
“I want to be clear about this,” she said. “This is not an individual university or campus issue. This is a system issue.”
The enrollment decrease is primarily driven by fewer new transfer students and more full-time students changing to part-time, Koester said.
The primary source of transfers into CSU is the community colleges. New transfers from community colleges are down by about 12,000 students, she said. This year, the system enrolled 46,323 transfer students — the lowest number in seven years.
The decrease in transfers is a domino effect from record-low enrollment at the state’s community colleges. Since 2019, the 115 physical community colleges have lost about 300,000 students. The system’s 1.8 million enrollment is the lowest in 30 years.