California community college enrollment slid 15% in 2020-21, new data shows

Higher Ed Dive

Natalie Schwartz
November 4, 2021
Dive Brief: 
  • Total enrollment in the California Community Colleges system fell an estimated 15% year over year in 2020-21, representing an overall decline of about 319,000 students, a system representative told state lawmakers this week.
  • The steepest declines were among African American, Native American and male students, as well as adult students, who are typically defined as age 25 or older. Among those aged 40 or older, total enrollment fell by more than 100,000 students.
  • “I call out these specific categories to highlight our challenges and note that this is who the community colleges serve,” David O’Brien, the system’s vice chancellor of government relations, told state lawmakers. “These declines are highly worrying to us.”
Dive Insight: 
Enrollment within the California Community Colleges system has plunged below 2 million students for the first time in 30 years, EdSource reported. The system’s latest data also reveals a steeper drop in students in the fall 2020 term than officials reported earlier this year.
The enrollment trends are “commanding the full attention of system and college leaders,” Rafael Chávez, a system spokesperson, said in an email. They’re exploring how to maximize student support by packaging financial aid, emergency grants and philanthropic support. And they’re using state and federal support to forgive student debt, cover textbook costs, and provide child care stipends, laptops, hot spots and emergency housing vouchers.