Community Colleges Seek Return of Students Post-COVID

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
California community colleges have seen a drop in enrollment of men that is twice the drop seen among female students, prompting targeted outreach efforts. Photo Credit: Campaign for College Opportunity

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Community colleges nationwide are bracing for another drop in enrollment this year, especially among students of color.

Data from the National College Attainment Network shows only about 55% of high school seniors have applied for federal financial aid.

And the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports in 2020 first-time enrollment was down 13% overall and almost 20% among Latino students.

Paul Fiest, Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing at California Community Colleges, said the pandemic has severely disrupted potential students’ lives.

“Many of our students are facing challenges with losing their jobs, having lower wages, having to care for their children as they’re being homeschooled,” Fiest explained.

Fiest noted in California, fall community college enrollment dropped by 11% overall from 2019 to 2020, but 12% for Latino students, 16% for African Americans and a whopping 22% for Native American students. And he pointed out schools lost twice as many men than women.

The most recent stimulus package includes millions for colleges to re-engage the student population.

Fiest added a chunk of money is targeted for direct aid to students.

“And there’s also some funding available for emergency grants for students,” Fiest reported. “That can help pay for things like child care, transportation, technology assistance.”

Colleges hope the dip in enrollment is temporary and will rebound as the economy recovers from COVID.

Students can find a wealth of information on financial aid and other programs at and

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.