Colleges See Decline in Fall Enrollment, Push for Students to Avoid ‘Gap' Year

An East Bay college district is fine tuning its online curriculum and is hoping for a late surge in students enrolling in classes.

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Faced with taking course online, many Bay Area college students are opting to sit out next semester or even the entire school year.

Colleges across the Bay Area are reporting a decline in fall enrollment.

The Contra Costa County Community College District said it has been fine tuning its online curriculum, and is still hoping for a list minute surge in students signing up for classes.

The district said enrollment is down by 10% among its three community colleges as it shifts to virtual instruction.

"Whether it's with the pandemic or unemployment numbers, a lot of stresses are going on in households that's at least what we're hearing are some of the reasons students aren't coming back or deciding to take a gap year instead of coming to college," said Tim Leong with the Contra Costa Community College District.

Most community colleges in the Bay Area also report a decline in fall enrollment.

"With many of the stresses our students and their families are facing, the decision to come to college right now is not something they're making months ahead," Leong said. "Many are waiting until the last minute."

The pending last minute decisions have community colleges hopeful for a surge in enrollment.

"I really feel there's no better place to be than a community college this year," said Kathleen King, an instructional technologist at Diablo Valley College.

The Contra Costa Community College District has been working hard to scale up its online classes. All instructors must take a four-week course on designing online classes.

Zoom, slideshows, online tutorials and tutoring are all part of the program. District officials said they are at the forefront of the virtual learning.

"I think this is going to be really a pivotal moment for education where there will be a lot of innovation and great things that come out of this," King said.

Still, many college students are planning to sit out the semester.

Andrew Mimay, who is studying audio engineering at Expression College in Emeryville, said he is just not a fan of digital learning.

"It's harder to communicate over Zoom," he said. "Sometimes people talk over each other by accident."

But colleges are hopeful students will sign on to the digital switch. They said now is not the time to take a gap year.

"The writing is on the wall," King said. "We're all going to be home quite a bit and if you're going to be home, why not take courses to advance your skills?"

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