Enrollment at Pierce College continues to decline following a downward trend across the Los Angeles Community College District, which dropped 9 percent in enrollment this year.
Enrollment is down 6 percent this semester, a larger drop than the 2016-2017 academic year which had a 2 percent decrease, resulting in a loss of more than 1,500 students.
The trend seems to correlate with the strength of California’s economy. When jobs are available, the returning and non-traditional student population tends to slightly drop, said Enrollment Management Committee (EMC) Co-chair Sunday Salter.
“The economy is doing better now than it was a few years ago,” instructor of Psychology Angela Belden said. “People tend to go back to school when they cannot find jobs. If the economy is good and folks have jobs, they don’t come to college.”
The population downturn affecting Pierce can stem from the surrounding local high schools.
“There are a fewer number of people who are graduating from high school, because there are a fewer number of high-school aged people,” Belden said.
There will be no financial impact this academic year or the next. However the effects for the fall 2019/spring 2020 academic year is unknown.
The 1 percent decline in enrollment has affected students and faculty and has caused some low-impacted sections of classes to be cancelled, according to Vice President of Academic Affairs Sheri Berger, and, if the trend continues, it could lead to more cuts.
“A drop in enrollment can lead to section closures in the first week of classes,” Salter said. “This is, of course, something that the Pierce administration seeks to avoid because it can negatively impact our students and faculty.”
The EMC and the Budget Committee is addressing these issues in meetings.
“We are collaborating with local high schools to continue to spread the word about the wonderful programs and environment that we have to offer here at Pierce,” Salter said.
One collaboration is the Los Angeles College Promise that provides one year of free enrollment to any LACCD college to all full-time qualifying students graduating from the Los Angeles Unified School District and charter high schools.
“Since last year, we have been looking at different strategic marketing plans for Pierce to get more students enrolled,” Berger said. “We don’t want to lose enrollment for next year, we are trying to build it back.”
Pierce plans to continue to create a welcoming, positive and professional learning environment with a campus-wide focus on helping students meet their academic goals, Berger said.
According to Berger, the Los Angeles College Promise Grant, formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver program, provides approximately 1 million students with free tuition. Rebranding the grant can encourage more students to attend their local LACCD colleges.
“Data shows that students who are full time and are dedicated to being full time are more likely to reach their educational goal,” Berger said.