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Community college enrollment may increase post-pandemic

A recent EdChoice survey of high school students shows some interesting shifts in their post-secondary plans. Students were asked to compare their post-secondary plans before and after the pandemic. It seems that they’ve made some small but important changes that could boost community college enrollment.

The survey, released in March 2022, showed that fewer high school students planned to attend a four-year, in-state university. Prior to the pandemic, 34% of respondents said they planned to attend an in-state, four-year university. Following the pandemic, only 28% of respondents reported that a bachelor’s degree was still part of their plans.

The drop was much smaller among students who planned to attend an out-of -state, four-year university. Prior to the pandemic, 22% of students planned to seek a four-year degree from an out-of-state university. Following the pandemic, that number had dropped slightly to 22%.

The number of respondents reporting their plans included community college enrollment increased, however. Prior to the pandemic, 6% of respondents reported that they intended to enroll at an in-state community college following high school graduation. Post-pandemic, 8% of students to pursue community college enrollment. The number of students reporting plans to attend an in-state trade or technical school doubled, from 3% to 6%.

The number of respondents reporting that they planned to enter the workforce immediately increased from 3% to 4%. Similarly, the number of respondents who indicated that they planned to take a gap year increased from 5% to 6%. Respondents who planned to join the military (2%), did not know what they would do after high school (15%), or had no specific plans following high school (9%), remained unchanged.

Survey shows opportunity for community college enrollment boost

Teen respondents reported that improving the K-12 and higher education systems; improving health care in the US; and dealing with global climate change were the most important public policy issues to them.

It seems reasonable that if these are the public policy areas that teens care mostly about, finding academic and employment pursuits that complement these priorities would be one way to draw them into the classroom. For example, preparing students for careers in health care or alternative energy may allow them to make meaningful contributions in areas of interest.

Likewise, engaging the 30% of high school students who have no post-graduation plans, who don’t know what they want to do or who plan to take a gap year should be the top priority of community college administrators who want to increase enrollment.

Based on Census Bureau data, the Classes of 2022 and 2023 are the largest high school graduating classes through 2029. It makes sense to develop recruitment strategies that speak to the unique characteristics of these classes.

Photo Credit: Britt Reints , via Flickr