Enrollment steadying off at South Valley community colleges

Friday, October 3, 2014
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After years of rapid growth, community colleges in the South Valley are seeing enrollment take on a slower pace.

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- After years of rapid growth, community colleges in the South Valley are seeing enrollment take on a slower pace.

Between 2006 and 2009 it was hard to get into a class at College of the Sequoias. Enrollment was booming. There were long lines in the admissions office to register and many relied on waiting lists to get into a class they needed.

At one point, there were nearly 15,000 people attending COS. Now, officials say enrollment is steadying off.

"Slight increases. I think some of it is attributed to our outreach efforts that we had last spring at our high school, our feeder high schools. We've been doing that in a more streamlined fashion," said COS Dean of Student Services Stephanie Collier.

After the enrollment boom during the recession, in 2010 state budget cuts forced administrators to drastically cut back on class offerings and eliminate summer school. Enrollment went down as a result.

Since then, as the economy has improved, officials have noticed they're getting more full-time students. These are students who financially can commit to being at school all day, as opposed to during the recession when many were working and going to school part-time.

"Now with the economy more steady I think we're seeing kind of more of that full-time student," said Collier. "They know that school is here and they maybe don't have to work because maybe another family member is working full-time to be able to allow them to do that."

Porterville College is seeing similar enrollment patterns. Officials say at the beginning of the fall semester they saw just a 2-percent increase in students from the year before. They attribute the slowdown to more people working and less unemployed needing to go back to school.

COS says the more steady enrollment has allowed them to provide a more stable environment for students and staff.

"They know what to expect, they're not going to come back in the fall semester and have 20 percent of the classes gone," said Collier.

COS actually had its largest freshman class ever this year -- roughly 1,500 students. During the recession, there were fewer students starting for the first time.