Oregon community colleges concerned about decrease in enrollment for marginalized communities

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Dec. 11, 2020 11:22 p.m.

Both Oregon community colleges and public universities have seen a decrease in enrollment amid the coronavirus pandemic. Community colleges especially have seen major declines, and higher education officials are especially concerned to see that decrease reflected in students from marginalized communities.

Since fall 2019, Oregon community colleges have seen a 23% decrease in enrollment, while public universities have seen an average decrease of 3.8%, according to data from the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC).


Much of that decrease has come from career and technical education programs and adult basic education – like GED preparation or English as a second language.

“We’ve remained concerned in particular about the students we’ve seen not coming back,” Oregon Community College Association deputy director John Wykoff said at a HECC meeting earlier this week.


According to the OCCA, enrollment in career and technical education programs has fallen 25% for community colleges. Adult basic education programs are down 48%.

“We’re also seeing that with communities of color and systematically marginalized communities in particular, [they’re] unable to access a community college education right now,” Wykoff said.

According to HECC data, Oregon community colleges have seen 1% fewer Hispanic and Latinx students since last year. That’s compared to 1.6% fewer white students.

While those percentages are close, white students make up the majority of community college students in Oregon, about 56%, while Hispanic and Latinx students make up only about 17%.

Oregon community colleges have also seen declines in enrollment by Asian, Black, Native American and Pacific Islander students.

Something similar is happening nationally as well, according to the latest fall enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

That data shows since last year a more than 13% decrease in Native American students at public two-year colleges, a roughly 13% decrease in Black students and a more than 10% decrease in Hispanic students.