Fewer first-time freshman are enrolling in college amid distance learning, COVID-19

Amid COVID-19, fewer high school graduates are signing up for college courses.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New numbers are showing first-year college enrollment is down, meaning many high school students are pressing the pause button on higher education.

Amid COVID-19, fewer high school graduates are signing up for college courses.

"Our presidents and all of their staff, they're meeting virtually as a group and individually every week and trying to figure out how we can encourage students to enroll," said the State Center Community College District Chancellor Paul Parnell.

A recent study found that far fewer high school graduates in the U.S. went to college last fall, declining by over 20%. In the Valley, community colleges say they're feeling the drop in enrollment across the board.

"It's one of our key discussions across the state and in our district," said Parnell.

Enrollment is down 11% overall for local community colleges. They say for first-time freshman recruitment is a big problem.

"The K-12 have not been in session either," added Parnell. "We have been working closely with all of our K-12 partners and doing things remotely, but it's not the same."

At Fresno State, enrollment numbers were high last fall, but they say retention is where they see challenges.

"We're really having to dive into what's going on with our freshman students," said Malisa Lee Associate Vice President of Enrollment at Fresno State. "We had a big class, but many of them aren't back in the spring."

They've also noticed a dip in high school seniors applying to school next year.

"That's indicating there might declining interest in going to college," said Lee. "From our freshman side, we were only down about 400. But compared to years prior, we're down a thousand or so."

One roadblock? Finding ways to reach potential students.

"All of our college fairs are virtual, and they have a very low turnout compared to what we used to have in person," said Lee.

Colleges say they're getting creative, taking to virtual platforms and social media to snag new students. To see the enrollment numbers for yourself click here.
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