Enrollment for the spring 2022 semester declines dramatically

Dr.+Jose+Fierro%2C+president+of+Cerritos+College%2C+expressed+how+important+student+retention+is.+Dr.+Fierro+said+that+it+will+take+a+long%2C+collaborative+effort+to+address+the+concern+of+enrollment+decline.+

Fatima Durrani

Dr. Jose Fierro, president of Cerritos College, expressed how important student retention is. Dr. Fierro said that it will take a long, collaborative effort to address the concern of enrollment decline.

Fatima Durrani, Staff Writer

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been struggling academically nationwide, which led to a decline in enrollment trends throughout community colleges.

In comparison to previous years, spring 2021 stood as an area of most decline in student enrollment within community colleges, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Faculty and staff expressed their concern of how important it is to be there for students during tough times.

Rich Miranda, vice president of academic affairs along with Dr. Dilcii Perez, vice president of student services at Cerritos College collaborated with a zoom meeting of about 200 participants aiming to tackle the enrollment issue.

“Overall, spring enrollment fell to 6.9 million from 17.5 million,” said Yvette Tafoya, the dean of enrollment services at Cerritos College. “We had about 150 people at the start and now 200, so clearly this is an important topic for us.”

“The purpose of us sharing is really to understand the magnitude of this issue,” Tafoya said. Miranda added that the purpose of the enrollment forum is to educate the community about current enrollment trends and how it largely affects students, faculty and staff.

This chart displays statewide enrollment trends that show a large decline in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students have factors such as financial insecurities, academic pressure and stress outside of school that plays a part in the decline of enrollment. Photo credit: Fatima Durrani

During the meeting, students shared their personal experiences of why they had to drop out of classes, most of the reasons being how stressful life was academically and outside of school.

Briana, a student taking Math 112 and Math 5, expressed how she lost motivation for school to the point where she feared taking classes in the hopes of not failing any. She said that her and her entire family suffered greatly after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Another Math 112 student named Angel said he couldn’t keep up with his class because of his extremely busy schedule, and that his professor dropped him for being absent 3 times due to poor internet connection.

To support students, Miranda and Perez explained how student services such as communication campaigns, financial resources, workshops and food distributions are offered to students in need. Cerritos College offers housing for homeless students with the help of the 2.1 million grant they were given, as well as resources like tutors, application assistance, Franco’s Market and counseling services.

“Our school relations team is focused on ensuring that every student has the support that they need to finish their applications,” said Perez. She said that Cerritos College’s placement team is also making huge efforts to connect with students and understand their struggles.

Edward, a student who appealed for financial aid, mentioned that the fall semester was very tough for him because of the pandemic and how difficult it was online. He said that working eight hour shifts at work were very draining, making it hard to balance academics.

Faculty and staff were moved into breakout rooms on Zoom to discuss goals for enrollment challenges. They highlighted how students felt a decline in motivation, had a lack of access to technology, financial insecurities and a demanding work schedule.

Short term goals by faculty and staff included adding wifi/laptop/lib resources to Canvas, flexibility in hybrid courses, a more lenient late work policy and simply listening to students’ concerns.

A group of faculty members also expressed how long-term goals include an expanded dual enrollment, smaller class sizes for faculty & student interaction and even hiring more faculty.

Overall, the enrollment forum discussed how important it is to communicate with students in order to address their needs and utilize tools such as surveys to get input from them.

Dr. Jose Fierro, president of Cerritos College, said we need to work hard to find new techniques for student retention within enrollment and that it’s a long process due to hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic.