Community college enrollment down across La. due to pandemic

Community colleges examine ways to increase enrollment

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Enrollment is down at community colleges around the country due to the pandemic and the data is clear.

A recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed that enrollment is down 9.5% from a year ago. In Louisiana, 11 out of the 12 colleges in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System have seen a drop in numbers.

“Can you imagine going through this crisis for six to seven months?” asked Dr. Willie Smith. “People need to work and some folks lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to pay their tuition.”

Smith is the chancellor at Baton Rouge Community College. He said the drop in students comes down to money, fear of returning to class, and lack of recruitment.

“Our average age is 26. So, can you imagine at 26, you can’t afford to be in a classroom setting if you might happen to have other important responsibilities like having to feed your family?” asked Smith.

River Parishes Community College Chancellor Dr. Jim Carlson said they’ve had to get creative to help reach potential students.

“But I think we’ve done the best we can do as far as transitioning and providing people with multiple options, whether if it was face to face, hybrid, or online,” said Carlson. “We try to be as flexible as possible.”

Thanks to new scholarship opportunities and programs from the state, like ‘Reboot Louisiana,’ they’re finding ways to help people get back in the classroom.

“The ‘Reboot Louisiana Program’ is actually funded through the CARES Fund, which allows people to either do it at a drastically reduced cost or perhaps free if they qualify,” Carlson added.

Smith believes the expanded availability of the vaccine will also help boost numbers. He said the sooner students and teachers get vaccinated, the quicker we’ll see things improve.

“We’re at just the beginning of April. We have a long way to go to keep turning that wheel and maximize student enrollment,” Smith explained.

CLICK HERE for more information about scholarship opportunities at BRCC.

CLICK HERE for more information about scholarship opportunities at RPCC.

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