SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION)
Community Colleges nationwide have seen a 30% drop in enrollment, which college officials say is due to hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, President Matt Wetstein says there is currently an 18% drop in enrollment, which was initially projected to be a bigger drop.
At Monterey Peninsula College, Spokesperson Kristin Darken says there is a 14% drop in enrollment compared to the previous year.
Darken says the cause for the enrollment drop is likely due to struggles with a digital divide, internet accessibility and financial hardships among the students.
"That online presence, even though our students who do stick with it are finding that they can learn online, I think for some it's just overwhelming and I think they decided they're just going to take a pause on their education," says Darken.
Darken adds online learning has been particularly challenging for students who are learning English as a second language.
Wetstein says the drop in enrollment at Cabrillo College is also the result of the impact from the CZU Lightning Fires in August, which he says left many students displaced or forced to leave the state.
"We saw a big drop in the first week back in September because people were just trying to get their lives back together," says Wetstein.
Wetstein says Cabrillo College is currently working with an approximate $70 million annual budget, but worries class and staffing cuts could happen in the future if enrollment were to continue dropping.
"One of my worries and I think for a lot of community college administrators is that students who stopped out this year and decided not to go to college, there's a very high number of those students who, they just never come back," says Wetstein.
So far, there are still some in-person hands-on classes such as health care and auto tech being offered at MPC and Cabrillo College with low enrollment for health and safety reasons.
Wetstein and Darken say they hope to see more in-person classes in the near future, which they say could bring in more students.
They add assistance with things like internet access as well as grants and funding are available for students in need to keep them moving forward with their education.
The schools encourage any students in need of resources to contact school staff.