Why fewer adults enrolled in community colleges this fall
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Community colleges were expecting an increase in enrollment as people struggled to find work this fall. So it came as a surprise when enrollment dropped nearly 10% overall.
Economic downturns, historically, have led to increased enrollment at community colleges. According to a 2018 U.S. Census report, two-year college enrollment grew by 33% nationwide from 2006 to 2011 — the period leading up to, during and after the Great Recession.
“In past economic recessions, community colleges got a boost in enrollment, driven by adult students,” said Amy Moreland, director of policy at the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s two-year colleges and trade schools.
The financial woes caused by the pandemic, however, brought new issues for students. Like technology barriers, Moreland said, and the lack of child care, which was exacerbated because many public school districts didn’t open at the start of the school year. These factors, she said, likely caused some adult students to pause their own education to help their children.
This fall, with the pandemic, community college enrollment is down nearly 10% nationwide, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Juggling college in a single-parent household
“If I were able to take a break from school this semester, I most certainly would have,” said Annisha Thomas, a student at Nashville State Community College. “I would not have gone back.”
But, she said she couldn’t take a break because her scholarship program requires steady enrollment. Thomas is in her mid-30s and works at a Tennessee Waffle House. Like many adult students, she’s had to juggle paying the bills and putting food on the table for her two children.
And now that her daughter’s school district is operating virtually because of COVID-19, Thomas has also basically been her daughter’s home-school teacher.
“My job starts at 7 o’clock. My kid had to go to a babysitter. I’d get off at 2 o’clock,” Thomas said. “Then I’d go pick up my child and me and my 7-year-old had to do school at 3:30 in the afternoon.”
Thomas said, overall, the transition caused by the pandemic has been rough, especially when it came to taking her own online classes while helping her daughter get through virtual schooling.
These kinds of barriers for adult students during the pandemic led some colleges, like Nashville State, to try and make classes more accessible to students.
“We, for this fall, for the first time as a college, have a laptop loaner program,” said Shanna Jackson, the president of Nashville State Community College. “So that if you don’t have technology, we’re going to make sure that you have it.”
Despite a decrease in enrollment compared to last year, said Jackson, the school has offered more support to adult students. Now, in 2021, Jackson said, the college will be looking at ways to shorten the amount of time it takes to get an associate degree.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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