What someone new to campus might think of as a peaceful walk on the Mall, seems eerie to anyone used to seeing more than a handful of students and teachers.
The chatter of students in packed classrooms have been replaced by the hooting of the OWLs, while the computer fans become louder and louder as more students join the Zoom call.
Pierce College has become the second-lowest class enrollment size, with an average of 19.2 students per section, down from 27 in September 2019.
The recent Pierce College Council (PCC) meeting spotlighted a drop in student registration of about 84% compared to 2021.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many students switched to online learning. As the spring semester has brought dual-delivery and hybrid courses, students are maintaining their virtual education.
Distance Education Coordinator Wendy Bass said Pierce is trying to encourage students to come to in-person classes.
“I love seeing students on campus; it makes me happy,” Bass said. “We want to make sure that we continue to offer all the different avenues for students to successfully complete whatever their goal is and figure out what we can do to get our students to come back on campus.”
Bass said that Pierce is not the only college affected by low enrollment.
“The entire state is impacted. It’s not just our district,” Bass said. “Our goal is to have it be where we offer students the schooling that works for them, because all of our students learn differently and everyone has a preference.”
Transfer Center Director Sunday Salter said that students are having a difficult time transitioning back to in-person classes because of the pandemic.
“Students are going through a lot in their personal lives,” Salter said. “We get anecdotal data from student feedback, and what they tell us is that it’s hard for them to focus on school when they’re struggling with family and work.”
Salter said that many students have made school a back burner in their lives, putting more effort and concentration into other situations and tasks. Pierce has been putting effort into creating a more flexible and convenient schedule for students who are trying to come back onto campus.
“We’re trying to offer different lengths of classes,” Salter said. “Instead of a 16-week class, which is a traditional semester, we’d get eight-week courses, 10-week sessions to try and encourage students to come back.”
Salter said that another factor that plays into Pierce’s drop in class enrollment size has been the lack of administrative position presence.
“Another piece of the puzzle is that we’ve lost some administrators,” Salter said. “The people who would have done the work aren’t at Pierce right now. It makes it really hard to get things accomplished when there’s no one in the role that would typically be doing that.”
Associated Student Organization (ASO) Club President Qais Azizi said that Pierce has Enrollment Management, a committee made up of faculty, students and staff that are designated to address enrollment issues.
In the recent PCC meeting, Azizi said that the committee has thought of a few ideas to encourage on-campus student presence.
“We’ve talked about bringing on student leaders or mentors from the Peer-Mentor program to create some ‘welcome back’ or useful videos like how to get testing on campus,” Azizi said. “We can post on our website or social media as we work to transition back into campus and welcome our newer students.”
Pierce will be sending surveys during this semester to get statistical data and more student feedback about how to improve the classes offered and to tackle low class enrollment sizes.