The pandemic is again contributing to enrollment woes
at two-year colleges.
As administrators and faculty members scramble to deal with the Delta variant’s impact on the fall semester, uncertainty about childcare, health concerns, and financial barriers appear to be contributing to students’ decisions not to enroll,
as Elin Johnson
reports this week in Work Shift
. And this remains particularly true for students of color.
For example, enrollment of Black and Latino students—specifically men—remains suppressed at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York. And overall enrollment at the college is down about 15 percent.
The disruption also is affecting workforce education and training programs.
At Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana’s two-year system, several thousand students have enrolled in Taking Hoosiers to the Next Level
, a free, short-term credential program. But the program’s growth has slowed, according to Sue Ellspermann
, Ivy Tech’s president.
“Definitely Delta is dragging things down,” she told Work Shift.
Workforce development centers can be a good barometer for student demand for job training. And the signals in Washington State are mixed right now, according to Marie Bruin
, director of workforce education at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
However, the rapidly shifting economy has altered labor market demands. Health care and early learning are hot fields in Washington right now, unlike the aftermath of previous recessions, when hiring in manufacturing was particularly strong.
In Indiana, however, Ellspermann said the pandemic has slowed down progress for Ivy Tech in forging links with its industry partners. And potential students may be less likely to enroll amid a hiring boom, as employers raise salaries to try to attract workers.
“It would be fair to say many of our industry partners have been preoccupied with their own COVID responses,” Ellspermann said.
Credential for a Career Pivot
Camara Wilson heard about Ivy Tech’s Taking Hoosiers to the Next Level from a local TV news spot on the new tuition-free program. Though she holds a four-year degree in film and television, Wilson had been looking to earn a credential to make a career pivot to a more stable and well-paying job.
“One of the reasons I hadn’t done it was because of that time piece of spending maybe two years, four years in school, and trying to balance it with working and personal life,” she told me during a webcast
hosted this week by the Presidents Forum and JFF. “It really was something that was really appealing to me to be able to get it done quickly.”
The short-term certificate programs typically come with 18 to 21 credits and can be completed in as little as six months. Most students are working, however, and typically finish in nine months.
Ellspermann says all the certificate tracks are designed to be in high-demand fields.
“We looked very much at what industry needed,” she says, noting that accounting, advanced manufacturing, and health care are well represented among the 25 disciplines covered by the program, which is funded by the state’s Workforce Ready Grant
and covers tuition up front—the so-called last-dollar approach.
Wilson went with bookkeeping, citing the potential payoff for those jobs. She enrolled in the certificate program last October and completed it in May. Wilson praised the support she got from Ivy Tech, particularly guidance from Chevelle Russell, a career coach. She landed a bookkeeping job at an investment management firm in July.