Local college student populations follow no fixed pattern

Enrollment stats for four local community colleges contradict COVID-19 pandemic conclusions

(Rigo Moran)
Darren Fraser
Published December 5, 2023  • 
12:30 pm

REEDLEY – Over the past six years, there have been some intriguing shifts in student enrollment at four local colleges. While the COVID-19 pandemic did send some shockwaves through the education system, leading to a noticeable drop in total student enrollment, there are some age groups that have not only weathered that storm, but have also shown resilience and growth.

The Times embarked on a journey into the enrollment statistics from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office for Clovis Community College (Clovis), College of the Sequoias (COS), Fresno City College (FCC), and Reedley Community College (Reedley) from 2017 through 2023. The focus? The age demographics of students – those aged 19 or younger, 20 to 24, 25 to 29, and then the seasoned learners who are aged 50 and up.

Back on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Fast forward to December 2021, which is recognized by many health officials as the date the pandemic began to ease up, according to a timeline published by Yale Medicine. For the purposes of this article, the years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 are considered the pandemic years.

The enrollment dynamics listed below offer a unique perspective on how different age groups responded to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While some age groups weathered the storm with resilience, others experienced more significant fluctuations. 

Overall, these trends provide valuable insights into the shifting educational priorities of a diverse student population – in particular, of the populations at the community college level.

CLOVIS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Over the six-year period, Clovis had an average student enrollment of 12,928. The lowest enrollment was observed during the 2017-2018 school year, with 11,167 students.

Interestingly, the highest enrollment of 14,302 occurred during the pandemic year of 2020-2021.

When it comes to age groups, the majority of Clovis’s student population consistently comprised those aged 19 or younger. However, during the pandemic year of 2020-2021, both the 20 to 24 and 25 to 29 age groups reached their highest enrollment levels.

And what about the wise students aged 50 and older? Their numbers averaged 172 over the six years, with the lowest point at 151 students in the 2018-2019 school year. Following the pandemic, there was a notable resurgence, with 179 students enrolled in the 2022-2023 academic year.

COLLEGE OF THE SEQUOIAS

COS had an average student enrollment of 16,745 over the six-year period. The highest enrollment of 17,376 was recorded in the 2022-2023 school year.

The lowest enrollment, on the other hand, was noted during the pandemic year of 2021-2022, with 16,261 students.

Similar to Clovis, the 2022-2023 academic year boasted the highest enrollment for students aged 19 or younger. Interestingly, this year also marked the lowest enrollment for the 25 to 29 age group.

During the pandemic years, it was the 50 and older age group and the 20 to 24 age group that experienced the lowest enrollment. However, there was a modest uptick in the 50 and older age group post-pandemic.

FRESNO CITY COLLEGE

FCC’s average student enrollment over the six years stood at 36,847.

The highest enrollment of 38,958 was reached during the 2018-2019 school year, while the pandemic year of 2021-2022 witnessed the lowest enrollment at 33,822.

Here’s where it gets interesting: enrollment for the 19 or younger, 20 to 24, and 25 to 29 age groups was at its lowest during the pandemic years. The 20 to 24 age group, in particular, saw a decline from 10,973 students in the 2017-2018 academic year to 8,484 students during the pandemic year of 2021-2022. 

However, there was a welcome upswing, with 293 more students in this age group during the 2022-2023 academic year.

As for the 25 to 29 age group, their enrollment remained relatively stable over the six years, dipping below 5,000 students only during the pandemic years.

As for the seasoned scholars aged 50 and older: FCC witnessed the most significant fluctuations in this age group’s enrollment. In the 2018-2019 academic year, 1,521 students aged 50 and older were enrolled, but this number dwindled to its lowest at 1,140 during the pandemic year of 2020-2021. However, there was a slight rebound post-pandemic.

REEDLEY COLLEGE

Reedley’s average student enrollment over the six years came in at 15,474.

However, unlike the other colleges, Reedley saw a substantial drop in enrollment over the years. During the 2019-2020 school year, a staggering 19,777 students were enrolled, but by the second pandemic year, 2021-2022, Reedley’s population had plummeted to 11,067—an astonishing decline of 8,710 students in just two years.

Interestingly, across all four age groups, the lowest enrollment was recorded during the pandemic year of 2021-2022. The 19 or younger, 25 to 29, and 50 and older age groups, however, experienced their highest enrollments during the 2019-2020 academic year.

The 20 to 24 age group saw its highest enrollment in the 2018-2019 year but experienced a decline during the 2019-2020 academic year, dropping from 5,038 to 4,867 students.

Darren Fraser
Reporter