California community colleges saw drop in enrollment during pandemic

Community colleges saw a 17% drop in enrollment during the pandemic, state numbers show. Santa Ana College appears to have been hit particularly hard with a decrease twice that of the state, though the college says those numbers aren't yet complete.

Video Transcript

- We know the pandemic has taken a major toll on our health and the economy, but it's also having an impact on another area. Community colleges are seeing a shocking decline in enrollment. And one of the hardest hit, Santa Ana College. Here's Orange County reporter Jessica De Nova.

JESSICA DE NOVA: Better access to financial aid, a flexible schedule, less stress. These are some of the reasons Elsie Burn says she chose the community college route.

ELSIE BURN: Being a single mom and, you know, not making as much money to go to a private college, I feel like community college was my savior.

JESSICA DE NOVA: But according to data from the California Community Colleges chancellor's office, across the state community colleges saw a nearly 17% drop in enrollment from fall 2019 to fall 2020. The decrease for Santa Ana College was twice that of the state at 34%.

ELSIE BURN: Well yeah, it's pretty surprising to me to hear those numbers.

JESSICA DE NOVA: The school's interim president says that data is incomplete because it doesn't include no credit or late start students.

MARILYN FLORES: We are down but we're down about 12%.

JESSICA DE NOVA: Dr. Marilyn Flores says the pandemic hit Santa Ana College hard. There is a drop of about 1,200 students.

MARILYN FLORES: Somehow the pandemic create a loss. It could have been a loss of a loved one. It could have been a loss of a job. It could have been the loss of a home. And so we know that is impacting our students.

JESSICA DE NOVA: Administrators here say they're working to help students with access to technology, food and face-to-face training where possible, in addition to increased financial assistance from state funding. This registered nursing student hopes to encourage others to take advantage of the opportunities she discovered here.

ELSIE BURN: Because I want to think about my role in the community and how I can encourage people and hopefully from them hearing this, it would encourage them to go back to school and seek the counsel and assistance from a community college.

JESSICA DE NOVA: Administrators here are hoping to increase student enrollment by creating more of a college community atmosphere with the help of their new Johnson Student Center which opens this summer.