California community college enrollment plummets to 30-year low
In this Sept. 28, 2017, photo, the campus of Colorado Community College is seen in Littleton, Colo. The state’s four-year colleges saw enrollment plunged in the latest school year by more than two-thirds, as the recession took its toll on the state’s high school graduates. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, file)
Colorado college enrollment slid to its lowest level in a decade in the latest school year, with an almost 2-percent drop from the prior year, a drop that is likely to reverberate through the state’s higher-education landscape as state funding plunges.
The University of Colorado’s enrollment fell in the fourth quarter by nearly 31%. Arizona State University’s enrollment contracted for the first time in 20 years. The University of New Mexico’s enrollment fell, while University of Texas at El Paso’s enrollment declined for a second straight year.
The decline in enrollment is likely to leave a long-term impact on public-education budgets, with Colorado community colleges facing an uncertain future: With annual state funding plunging, the state is on the verge of cutting enrollment at any of its four-year colleges by nearly 30%, a change that could reverse a decade-long enrollment increase that’s contributed to the state’s post-recession economic turnaround.
Many school officials say the enrollment plunge will affect how the state funds instruction at public colleges, with state funding declining by 8% per student at a time when the state is already struggling to meet its own budgets.
“Colleges are in the business not just of education, but of fundraising, and state funding is one of the things that you can use to attract funds,” said Tim O’Bryant, vice president of enrollment and academic affairs at New Mexico State University.
A third of the private colleges in Colorado saw their enrollment decline in the most recent year of data, and the state’s four-year colleges are among the hardest hit. At CSU, enrollment fell by nearly 10% and at CU, it fell by more than 30%.
The numbers come as the state’s budget outlook remains unstable,