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College Enrollment Numbers Drop Amidst Pandemic

Despite a recent spike in unemployment and not quite a lot to do in light of closures and restrictions surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment numbers at Passaic County Community College have seen a considerable downtick.

Last Tuesday, PCCC President Dr. Steven Rose met with reporters from Vision Newspaper to discuss the drop in enrollment and how it has affected the college thus far.

“In fall we were down about 15% from the year before,” Dr. Rose explained to a screen of reporters from his desk at the college, via Zoom. “A good portion of that is new students.”

Total enrollment is down 15% but the portion of new students that enrolled in fall are about half as many as last year. Dr. Rose tells us, “every year [for example] we would get a hundred kids from Kennedy [High School], this year we got 50…Those students just decided not to start college and that’s really bad for them.”

PCCC’s enrollment numbers follow a trend seen at colleges and universities throughout the nation. A recent Forbes article[1] reported that enrollment across the country was down roughly 4%. Community colleges however have seen the greatest decline, with a staggering average enrollment drop of almost 23% nationwide.

Many of these students will never pursue further education. “We know from history that if students don’t go directly from high school to college, there is much less chance they will start in the future,” Dr. Rose explained.

As numbers decline Dr. Rose wants to remind prospective students about the potential rewards that come from earning a college degree. “We know how much benefit a college degree gives students in terms of the ability to get a job, the ability to keep a job, and the ability to earn a living wage where you can actually support yourself and a family…which is very hard to do with a high school diploma.”

The decline in enrollment has also affected the college financially, as it has seen a roughly 5-million-dollar loss in revenue from last year. “The good news is…the Cares Act.”

The Cares Act, passed by Congress in March, provided economic aid to individuals, institutions, and businesses amidst the pandemic. The funds provided to PCCC have helped to support the institution but have also provided financial assistance to students at the college.

The passing of a second stimulus bill in December is set to provide more aid to the school, and Dr. Rose wants students to know that there is support for those who need it. “We had almost 900 students who haven’t paid their bills for the fall…and we’re going to try to help as many of them as we can. If they want to continue to go to school, we know times are tough right now, and we’ll try to help people in any way we possibly can…All the students will be hearing about some more support we’re going to be able to give to [them] soon.”

Asked if he had any words to students who are on the fence about starting school amidst the pandemic, Dr. Rose told us, “this pandemic is impacting all our lives in a lot of different ways. We want to try and make the impact of it as little as possible… [we want to] keep students on track to get a college degree…once a student stops there is a good chance they won’t continue. And you know,” he smiled, “a college degree is really, really important.”

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