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Orange Coast College and other community colleges throughout California have experienced a decline in enrollment rates for spring semester. 

Sheri Sterner, OCC’s dean of Research, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness, said that the current enrollment count at OCC is down by nearly 1,400 students compared to last spring. This is a trend that other community colleges around the U.S. have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sterner also said that the total seats enrolled in all classes at OCC is 55,688 compared to last spring which had 60,672 total seats enrolled.

There have been a few trends that have contributed to the decline.

“One trend that we have been aware of in Orange County specifically, is that we have had a decline in enrollment over the past few years. It hasn’t only been from COVID,” Sterner said. 

Sterner said another cause of this trend is declining high school graduation rates in Orange County. 

“At OCC, a large number of our students are high school graduates,” Sterner said.

Another factor in the decrease in enrollment rates is local economic opportunities. 

“When the economy is good, enrollment rates can decline. When the economy is bad, enrollment rates tend to increase,” Sterner said. “Right before COVID-19, the unemployment rates were low. That is another factor we looked into.”

The California Community Colleges System projected a 2% decline in enrollment across its 116 campuses this academic year.

“I think the enrollment in some ways was better than it might have been. [The decline in spring enrollment] was inevitable from the pandemic, but I think [it] in some sense is room for optimism because there still has been a significant turnout,” said Michael Mandelkern, dean of the Literature and Languages division at OCC. 

While the total headcount shows a significant decline, various divisions, such as Literature and Languages, Math and Sciences, and Business and Computing, have all shown at least 80% fill rate for all classes.

On Feb. 17, the Coast Community College Board of Trustees voted to increase the tuition for out-of-state and international students to, in part, counteract the decline in enrollments.

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