November 8, 2021
The California Community Colleges system suffered a 14.8 percent enrollment decrease — a loss of 318,800 students — during the 2020-21 academic year compared to the previous year. The decline is steeper than earlier reported by the system, EdSource reported. Total student enrollment fell to 1,833,843 students from 2,152,463 the prior academic year, the first time enrollment dropped below two million students across the 116-college system in at least three decades.
David O’Brien, the system’s vice chancellor of government relations, told the State Assembly’s higher education committee in a hearing Wednesday that Black, Native American and male students and students “outside of what we consider traditional college-going age” experienced the largest declines.
Rafael Chávez, a system spokesperson, told EdSource that the data “likely overstates” the enrollment decrease because of problems counting students in noncredit asynchronous online courses.
Nonetheless, “our enrollment declines are significant and commanding the full attention of system and college leaders,” he said.
Representatives of the chancellor’s office have cited other obstacles to producing accurate, systemwide enrollment data over the course of the pandemic, including that some college districts had difficulty counting students during the pandemic and accounting for those who started but did not complete independent study, according to EdSource.