Community college enrollment appears to increase amid pandemic

As colleges and universities work on their plans to bring students back, in the fall, while the pandemic continues, some of those students are choosing not to wait. As a result, community colleges are expecting a spike in enrollment.

Haven Owen is among them. The new high school graduate had planned to attend Fall classes at the University of North Texas, where she wants to study to be a librarian.

As the pandemic continues to make 'leaving home' unattractive, she's decided to take her first classes at San Jacinto community college. "My whole purpose of going to UNT, at least for my freshman year, was that I'd be able to get the full experience of college and i wasn't even sure that was going to happen," she says.

She's not alone.

"A lot of parents and students are choosing to stay home, just to see what the next semester holds," says Lone Star College vice chancellor Kyle Scott.

Lone Star's Summer enrollment was up 5%, year to year, and there's every expectation that Fall numbers will grow even more as traditional four-year schools put limits on in-person activities. It will make community college campuses pretty busy places, as they juggle a mixture of online and in-person classes, while making every effort to keep students and faculty safe.

"They need to be aware that we're doing everything to make it a safe and welcoming environment," says Scott.

The "math" is hard to argue. Community colleges cost a fraction of four-year schools and offer the same basic classes that can transfer if a student wants to apply them to a more advanced degree.

It's a selling point that community colleges are eager to demonstrate.

Houston Community College vice chancellor Kurt Ewen says, "A student can come to us, get the same education; smaller class sizes; more faculty interaction at a fraction of the price."

For Haven Owen, it's the perfect solution to start college, while she waits for the experience she wants. "I may not be getting it, now; but I will be getting it in the future," she says.