Local community colleges saw full- and part-time enrollment drop this year, by 0.6% and 3.5% respectively, for an overall decline of 2.6%.
Total enrollment is about 224,000, down from 230,000 last year, at nine colleges in four districts.
A flat-to-stable full-time count could suggest the right numbers in the right places, while fewer part-timers might point to a tighter workforce—less time for even a little school—or other factors.
Some districts—North Orange County and Rancho Santiago—reported significant boosts in full-timers, with the cut in part-time counterparts offsetting total numbers. Districts in wealthier parts of OC—Coast and South Orange County—reported more significant declines in both categories.
Local rates match national drops of about 2%, according to data from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which shows California has the second-largest decline of any state, trailing only Florida. Declining enrollments are largely due to the strong economy and low unemployment, education trade journals have said.
As students press on through two-year degrees and move on to higher education, community colleges seem to be boosting their work with partners in interesting ways and involving good-sized sums:
• Cypress College got a $2.8 million federal Title V grant to increase retention and improve graduation and transfer rates. The five-year grant is highly competitive; just 43 U.S. schools got them this year.
• Santiago Canyon College nabbed a National Science Foundation grant for Scholars Academy; $500,000 of it will go to STEM majors from underrepresented groups.
Other community college deals aimed at directly expanding access:
• Fullerton College will work with Orange County Transportation Authority to provide students unlimited bus rides on all routes for a reduced fee beginning this fall.
• Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa last year kicked off Pirates’ Promise: first-time college students and California residents receive a year of free tuition.
The program this year tapped incoming freshmen—and extended the grant to second-years, provided they were in the initial batch last year.
Full-time study and expanded access are showing some early results: Business Journal research shows nearly 30,000 people received associate degrees this year, up from about 22,500 a year ago.