Press "Enter" to skip to content

Fall enrollment incentives may not be enough

Community colleges are doing more than forgiving student debt in their efforts to boost their fall enrollment. They’re using federal assistance to pay for incentives to bring students back to the classrooms.

El Paso Community College is offering grant funds of $1,000 for full-time students and $750 for part time students when they enroll in fall classes. EPCC is offering a mix of in-person only, in-person and online, and online only class formats. The move is an effort to boost EPCC’s fall enrollment.

Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, MO will give vaccinated students a free for-credit course. This is not the first time MCC has given away the store. In May, MCC offered a free class to 250 students who could prove that they’d been vaccinated. The new giveaway will provide 1,000 one-course scholarships for vaccinated students who register for the fall. The schools will draw winners lottery-style. Students who won in May will not be eligible

Two more New Jersey community colleges (Hudson CC and Bergen Community College) combined will eliminate nearly $10M in debt students owe to the two institutions. About 7,500 students are affected by the debt relief programs. The institutions hope that debt relief will boost their fall enrollment.

In Michigan, the state is funding two programs for frontline workers and people over the age of 25. The effect is the same: free or discounted community college classes.

Fall enrollment may depend on student confidence

But boosting fall enrollment may be harder than it seems this year. The delta variant of the COVID-19 virus may yet have something to say about the fall semester. Case levels are currently doubling and tripling ever week in certain areas of the country. Should it become necessary to return to stay-at-home, schools will also need to offer support – including computer equipment, Internet service, coaching and other services – for a whole group of students who did not experience learn-from-home last year.

It’s unclear how students will respond to a crushing resurgence of COVID-19 this fall, should it occur. A study conducted by Third Way and New America shows that more than half of currently enrolled college students believe the pandemic is nearing its ends. Surprisingly, fewer than half of surveyed high school seniors share their optimism. Black students currently enrolled in college are even more pessimistic, with just over one-third believing that the pandemic is wrapping up. Worse, one-third of these student groups believe the worst is yet to come.

This pessimism can directly impact community colleges’ fall enrollment. When – after 18 months – students don’t believe the pandemic’s end is in sight – incentives may not be enough to convince students to come back to campus.

Photo Credit: Miguel Tejada-Flores , via Flickr