CTN Director of Research and Evaluation, Erin Doran, and Robert Vela, SAC President, were quoted in the USA Today Online article titled “The bottom fell out’: For years, Latino college enrollment was on the rise. Then came the pandemic.” The article discusses the decline in Latino college enrollment since the pandemic and the reasons for it.
“The COVID-19 pandemic pummelled Latino college enrollment rates. Latino enrollment fell 7% from fall 2019 to fall 2021. At community colleges, the decline was more than twice that. Of all freshmen who started school in fall 2019, just 74% remained in school as of fall 2020, the first year of the pandemic, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That represented a 2% rate drop over the previous year and the largest decrease since reporting began in 2009.
For Latinos, the decline was even greater. Just 68.6% of those who started as freshmen in fall 2019 remained in school as of fall 2020 — a 3.2% drop from the previous year and more than twice the decline among white, Asian American or Black students, the center said.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2022/)
“When you add up all the uncertainty and precarity over money and mental health since March 2020, it’s no wonder that school just fell off many students’ radars,” said Erin Doran, an education professor at Iowa State University in Ames. “For people like me who have written sentences like, ‘Latino enrollment has been growing steadily for years,’ it’s unbelievable how much COVID managed to reverse that in a matter of a year,” Doran said. “I think it was all just too much – the mental health issues, the stress of being home all the time.”
“At San Antonio College in Texas, enrollment held firm through the pandemic, largely through strong messaging that told students they were better off with the school than without it. Even taking one class could qualify students for school resources, including mental health services or assistance with housing and food insecurity.
“We did lose some students, but not at the degree we saw nationally,” said Robert Vela, the school’s president. “What may have dipped is the amount of classes they were taking.”
As part of retention efforts, the school used federal money to turn parking lots and outdoor areas into connectivity-ready workspaces, upgrading Wi-Fi access and making laptops and hotspots available for checkout. The effort addressed not only technology access issues but also offered a quiet space outside cramped homes for students to get work done.
“We knew the college was kind of their safe haven,” Vela said. “Now they can drive into the parking lot or sit at a picnic table and have a great connection with no interruptions. We didn’t want our students to not progress simply because they didn’t have the right tech or coverage.”
Vela expects the program to continue now that the pandemic has reshaped how college administrators and professors see the process of delivering education.
“I think we would misstep if we said, let’s go back to pre-pandemic environments,” Vela said. “We understand what our students need to matriculate and graduate. I strongly support having this beyond the pandemic to make sure they have their technology needs met, whether it’s here or virtually.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2022/)