Three local colleges say they are seeing strong enrollment for Fall 2021. In fact, new enrollments may reach pre-pandemic levels, say school officials. The news comes after several semesters of smaller than usual enrollments dampened during the height of the pandemic for the majority.
ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena City College and Pacific Oaks College all reported the optimistic outlook during a series of interviews with Pasadena Now last week.
“We experienced a decrease in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 enrollment due to the pandemic, with our overall enrollment decreasing by approximately seven percent,” said Tom Stern, vice president of admissions at ArtCenter College of Design.
Stern added that the enrollment for the upcoming fall semester, however, is on pace with the trends before the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the Summer 2021 term, said Stern, Art Center was able to offer on-campus classes in a limited capacity, but the majority of the enrollment remained online and off-campus.
As of the fall 2021 semester, the school has 1, 912 undergraduate students, and 270 graduate students, for a total full time enrollment of just over 2,020 students.
Meanwhile, Alex Boekelheide, special assistant to the Superintendent/President at Pasadena City College, said, “Our [upcoming] terms are looking good, but we’re being careful.”
“We are currently seeing some strong enrollment in the fall. We’re making sure that we follow that all the way through. So far we’ve seen a healthy desire to return to campus,” Boekelheide said.
“We think that people are responding to the fact that we have so many of our classes in-person and people are seeing that to find a way to get their education back on track.”
According to the school’s website, PCC is, for the third time, a finalist for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s preeminent recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges. The school is also ranked first in California for associate degrees granted, associate degrees for transfers, associate degrees earned by minorities, and associate degrees earned by Asian-Americans.
Both PCC and ArtCenter also reported that their enrollment numbers decreased during the COVID-19 lockdowns, mirroring national declines.
Stern said the overall enrollment at ArtCenter fell by around seven percent in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Boekelheide reported that the enrollment rate at PCC decreased by between seven and eight percent in Summer 2020.
At Pacific Oaks College, meanwhile, enrollment numbers remained steady even during the COVID-19 lockdowns, according to President Dr. Jack Paduntin. Paduntin also pointed out that the school’s total enrollment is now up about ten percent, but the new student enrollment is up about eight percent.
Paduntin noted that he was “quite surprised” to see the number of students that the school admitted last year and Pacific Oaks’ rising retention rates, which are not consistent with most other local educational institutions.
Investigating why Pacific Oaks has gone against national trends, Paduntin said the school administration concluded that “there must be something that we did differently.”
As Paduntin explained, “I think it’s because we have a smaller class size. Our class size is about 20 students per class. I think it’s helped students who actually know one another and support one another during the pandemic time. It is almost a cohort model where everybody else knows their classmates.”
All three colleges also reported that they have not seen significant changes in their students’ demographics throughout the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic.