By JORDAN LACKEY
Dallas College student enrollment is down nearly 10% from last fall, with the largest dips occurring in low-income areas and ZIP codes that have been heavily affected by COVID-19, according to a report presented Nov. 10 to the Board of Trustees.
“We’re worried about every single student that’s being left behind,” Chancellor Joe May said at the meeting. “Our failure is not just a percentage mark on a page, it’s a person. And the impact of this is significant. … I think this just means we have to work harder in order to get more people in the door.”
General enrollment for the fall 2020 16-week term is down by more than 14,000 (9.3%) when compared to fall 2019, and the first eight-week semester was down by almost 3,000 (14%). The second eight-week term saw 1,200-student increase (6%).
“This has been a crisis like no other in our lifetimes,” Vice Chancellor of Student Success Beatriz Joseph said. “It’s about keeping yourself and your family safe. … It’s about being able to put food on the table. And unfortunately, in situations like that, education just takes a back seat.”
Dallas College surveyed students who attended classes in spring 2020 and did not return for fall. More than 45% said they need face-to-face instruction in order to be successful and most would return once campuses reopen.
“It wasn’t surprising that only 3% said it was a financial reason,” May said. “Overwhelmingly they don’t like online.”
Dallas College’s loss is comparable to the national average of 9%, May said. In Texas, enrollment drops range from 2.4% for Austin Community College District and 21% for Houston Community College, according to the Texas Association of Community Colleges.
“I think [10%] is a pretty amazing number,” said Wesley Jameson, vice chair of the Board of Trustees. “With all the barriers that people have had to overcome, to only have lost 10%, roughly, in overall enrollment. We’re struggling with unemployment, with food challenges, I think [10%] is a real success story.”
College leaders are analyzing how these enrollment trends could affect state funding. The biennial meeting of the Texas Legislature, when the two-year state budget is drafted, starts in January.
To combat enrollment drops, the college has streamlined the enrollment process from six steps to three.
Officials are also trying to distribute emergency aid funds provided by the federal government, but Joseph said they have struggled to keep up with the ever-changing federal rules.
Dallas College received about $20 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act earlier this spring. Of those funds, $9 million must go directly to students in the form of emergency aid. As of Nov. 10, about $2.5 million has been distributed, leaving over $6 million available.