Will the US see a spike in community college enrollment?


It’s no stretch to say that 2020 has been a complicated year for education, both international and domestic. With many US universities opting for online-only learning in the fall semester, many are wondering what this will mean for future enrollment trends.

Online degree programs have existed for decades, so this is not necessarily new territory for many institutions. However, online learning carries a stigma of being a less rigorous or lower quality alternative to face-to-face learning. While this is generally not true, this stigma could affect international students’ decisions on whether they want to study at a US institution. Even if universities are offering a hybrid model that includes both face-to-face and online learning, students may not want to pay high US tuition costs if they will miss out on the campus experience and social aspects of international education.

In these uncertain times, community colleges have a unique offering that could draw in both international and domestic students. Their lower tuition rates could entice students to continue their education during the pandemic while also saving money. Lower class sizes can also translate to less contact with other students. Community colleges often cater to older learners, so their flexible class times and part-time programs could allow students to continue their studies while also working a part-time or full-time job.

The 2+2 model could also see a resurgence in the US. With the looming uncertainty of how the 2020-2021 school year will pan out, students may opt to save money by enrolling in a community college and then transferring to a university once they have completed their general education classes. This could also be an appealing option for international students who want to study at a US university, but are not in a position to pay for four years of university tuition.

While it is too early to know exactly what effect COVID-19 will have on enrollment, we can be certain that universities and colleges will need to be very deliberate in their recruitment strategies in the coming years.

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