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Local community colleges see enrollment drop during pandemic, opposite for University of Arizona

Local community colleges see enrollment drop during pandemic, opposite for University of Arizona
Posted at 6:52 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 20:52:28-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Enrollment rates are dropping at community colleges throughout the nation and locally. Four-year universities aren’t seeing the same trend.

Since the pandemic began two years ago, Pima Community College enrollment dropped by 19%. Within that same time period, Cochise College enrollment dropped by 11%.

“The workforce is our competition," said David Arellano, Dean of Enrollment Management at Pima Community College. "If you can't meet immediate needs, education might not be on your mind.”

Four-year universities had the opposite experience. The University of Arizona had around 46,000 enrollees in Fall of 2019. In Fall of 2021, that number jumped to more than 49,000.

“We had a lot of momentum moving into the pandemic with outreach we were doing through mail, texts, email,” said Kasey Urquidez, Vice President of Enrollment Management, University of Arizona.

The University ramped up recruitment during the pandemic. It also made campus more accessible for out of state students through virtual tours and other online resources.

“We all pivoted to do a lot more virtual opportunities which I think opened up access for students to be able to see themselves on campus,” Urquidez said.

Community colleges have put in similar effort without the same result. Many of their students are part-time or over the age of 25, and cant afford to stay in school.

“Looking at the job market in Tucson, In-N-Out is hiring from $16-$19 an hour, Quiktrips are starting at $20.50,” Arellano said.

“Our demographics are traditionally more part-time students who are working. So they had to make a choice, we saw families who lost day-care their children were home from school so instead of taking classes, they had to stay home to take care of their children,” said Robyn Martin, Asst. Dean of Enrollment Management, Cochise College.

Cochise and PCC are encouraging students to think of the long-term benefits of a college degree.