‘It’s just too much’: Why some students are abandoning community colleges

Community colleges have traditionally been a refuge where recent high school graduates — and adults of all ages — could pick up credits and develop new skills, including during a poor job market.

Enrollment at two-year schools swelled during the downturn a decade ago. Many expected a similar rush during the pandemic.

That didn’t happen. Fall enrollment at community colleges was down 10 percent from a year earlier, according to National Student Clearinghouse data from mid-December. That was a much steeper decline than the roughly 1 percent drop-off in undergraduates at public and private nonprofit four-year institutions, despite predictions that more students might opt for colleges closer to home before transferring to four-year schools. The decline in first-time enrollment at community colleges was a staggering 21 percent. Black, Hispanic and Native American first-year students showed even steeper drops in a November report, between 28 and 29 percent.

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