Applicant Rates: Pre and After Covid

How has the pandemic affected the students’ pursuit of higher learning? Colleges and universities have been sharing their recent enrollment statistics and in this data, we see both alarming and reassuring revelations. 

California Community College Statistics
According to the official California Community Colleges website, there has been a huge decline in student enrollment in recent years. In the 2019-2020 school year, nearly 1.8 million students enrolled in the community college system. However, between 2021-2022, community colleges saw a drop in applications by 18% (~300,000 students). This was, as claimed by, the lowest level of enrollment in 30 years.

California State University
Like community colleges, California State Universities (Cal States) have also been experiencing a decline in enrollment. In Fall 2020, around 485,000 students enrolled in a Cal State institution: this is the highest enrollment rate in this decade. In Fall 2021, 477,000 students enrolled, and in Fall 2022, the enrollment number fell to 457,000. According to Jolene Koester, Interim Chancellor of the California State University system, all of the 23 Cal States campuses did not reach their enrollment targets. Unfortunately, since 2020, Cal States have suffered a 5.7% decrease (~28,000 students).

University Statistics
As concerning as the numbers are for community colleges and Cal States, the Universities of California (UCs) has fortunately received no significant repercussion of the pandemic on their enrollment numbers. In fact, UCs have been experiencing “record breaking undergraduate application growth”. Here are some of the enrollment statistics provided by University of California website that support this claim:

UC Berkeley: Fall 2021 62,169 / Fall 2023 72,656 (+16.87%)           
UC Irvine: Fall 2021 77,995 / Fall 2023 86,409 (+10.79%)
UC San Diego: Fall 2021 76,380 / Fall 2023 84,910 (+11.17%)
UC Los Angeles: Fall 2021 84,148 / Fall 2023 90,747 (+7.84%)

Jim Limbaugh, West Los Angeles College’s president, claims that many college students have halted their education because they were “enticed by employers who boosted wages to attract employees amid worker shortages during the pandemic”. According to a survey done by RP Group, a nonprofit research center, one-third of former community college student responses confirmed that work was their motive for not returning to school. To stop the decline, pressure has been placed on schools to push for action. For example, Cal State system leaders have recently voiced that their campuses must begin to recover their enrollment numbers or face losing its state enrollment funding. Additionally, several community colleges are attempting to bring students back by focusing on expanding career training programs. Fortunately, this has led to some districts seeing an increase in enrollment, such as the Kern Community College District that had a 10% increase in enrollment compared to the previous year.




California community colleges eye a different future amid pandemic disruption



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