LANCASTER — Antelope Valley College saw a 17% decrease in student enrollment from the 2019-20 academic year to the 2020-21 academic year.
Enrollment declined from 19,120 students to 15,801 students.
“We heard about the fiscal impact of that and how much of an emergency it is if we don’t increase enrollment,” Student Services Vice President Erin Vines said during a presentation at Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
Vines added there is also a human cost due to students not being in college.
“We just happen to believe that this is the best place to transform their lives,” Vines said. “We want them here.”
In the 20 months since the COVID-19 pandemic started, enrollment is down about 15% at California’s 116 community colleges. According to a report by Ed Source, enrollment dropped below two million students for the first time in at least three decades.
Some colleges are worse off than AV College. Hartnell Community College, in Salinas, saw a 31% decrease in enrollment from 2019-20 to 2020-21. Gavilan Community College in Santa Clara County saw a 23% drop over that period.
“We’re all pretty much facing the same experiences,” Vines said.
For fall 2021, approximately 34, 4% of AV College students are age 19 or younger. The next largest group is 20- to 24-year-olds at 31.4%, followed by 25- to 34 year-olds at 19.2% and 35- to 44-year-olds at 8.2%. Students 45 years and older are 6.8% of the student population.
AV College has seen a larger decline in the number of male students and African-American students, similar to the trend seen across the state. In addition, what is unique to AV College is a higher decline in the number of white students, Vines said.
“We pay attention to who are we not serving in the community, and then we have different approaches to how we engage those different groups,” Vines said.
Student Services looks to support the “whole student” from recruitment to completion with ongoing enrollment management to retain students.
Students will get registration reminders via text message. The college also engages students via social media. Student Services also conducts outreach with daily calls to new students and monthly workshops.
The college reached out to more than 3,000 students from 2020 who either took an emergency withdrawal or did not enroll in the fall to see how they could bring them back.
Of those 3,000 calls, more than 600 students returned to AV College for fall 2021. They also encourage students to take a full load of classes to access more financial aid and to graduate earlier.
“The pandemic is not an excuse; we’re going to continue to do the best job we can to make sure that we get more students enrolled here at the camps,” Vines said.
Trustee Michael Rives said students are looking for something to help them get a job.
Board Clerk Barbara Gaines asked Vines about the pre-pandemic percentage of students ages 19 and younger in the fall of 2019-20.
Though he did not have the exact percentage, Vines said it would likely not be less than 34% due to the inclusion of SOAR High School students and first-time freshmen.
Gaines said she thought the number would be higher.
“In my personal opinion, there is a lot of research out there that would say that online classes and distance learning has impacted the number of student who want to attend college, period, whether it’s community or Cal State/UC,” Gaines said.
Gaines added they might be able to bring students back when they can have them see what programs the college has to offer.
Measure AV projects such as Sage Hall and the upcoming Discovery Lab could also bring students back.