PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Local community colleges are experiencing a substantial decline in enrollment.
Clackamas Community College (CCC) and Portland Community College (PCC) are both seeing 20 percent slumps, while Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) is down 19 percent over last year's enrollment.
"Research is showing that this is a nationwide trend with community college enrollment being hit hardest since the populations we tend to serve are also the same populations who are being disproportionally affected by the pandemic," the director of communications and marketing at Mt. Hood Community College, Jessica Roberts, wrote in an email.
Unemployment, financial insecurity, and concerns over COVID-19 are all playing into low enrollment for community colleges across the country.
"The uncertainty of all of this has kind of played a factor in terms of enrollment," said Matt Ogawa, the director of admissions and recruitment for PCC. "It became very difficult for the general public just to plan ahead."
Online learning is also turning students away.
Barbara Castor, who lives in Oregon City, tells FOX 12 her son Mitchell was planning to go to CCC, but he chose to take a job near home.
"He was going to do welding or auto repair, that kind of thing, but we've put it on hold because those aren't classes that you can take at a distance," she said. "It's hard because he lost so much last year, all the kids did. To see him also lose this is really tough."
In April, FOX 12 spoke with Ben Cannon, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission's executive director, who pointed out that an economic recession is typically associated with an increase in education. That hasn't been the case for fall term in 2020.
"School is more than just the things that you read or the tests that you take," said Castor. "I wouldn't say I'm content completely. I'm accepting it. I think I would rather see [my son] wait and have a full school experience, be there in person than do the online learning."
Castor also says she wishes there were more options.
"Everything is so 'blanket-ly' closed," she told FOX 12. "You're not allowed as an individual to, sort of, assess your level of comfort with risk or what's going on or your personal situation, so that part is hard."
Ogawa says he's not worried about higher education.
As educators, he says, they're committed to helping their students find the best path forward whenever they're ready.
"I'm hopeful that people will continue to pursue, of course, their education but also find the balance they need with their family and personal and home lives," said Ogawa.
Another significant factor playing into enrollment declines is mental health.
MHCC took a survey early in the pandemic and found 47 percent of students felt they could no longer concentrate on their education.
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