Some Oregon colleges, universities recover lost enrollment. Others see continued decline

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Nov. 15, 2022 10:48 p.m.

Full enrollment data show enrollment trends varying across the state

The Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission released fall enrollment data Monday evening for all of Oregon’s public colleges and universities.

While some schools have recovered enrollment lost during the height of the pandemic, others are continuing to shrink.


The HECC shared broad details of enrollment trends at its meeting late last week, and some individual institutions shared their own details on enrollment, but the new data paint a fuller picture of how enrollment is playing out across the state.

Oregon’s community colleges bore the brunt of falling enrollment early on in the pandemic, but many are recovering this fall, according to the new HECC data. Still, none of them are back to pre-pandemic enrollment levels.

“We’re really pleased to see the headcount and [full-time equivalent] enrollment data stabilizing for more colleges,” said Oregon Community College Association Executive Director Morgan Cowling in a statement. “This means students across the state are returning or continuing to pursue their education.”

Community college enrollment

All of Oregon’s 17 community colleges saw enrollment shrink in the fall of 2020, with less than half seeing a bump back up in 2021. This fall, student headcount either stabilized or increased at 10 of the state’s community colleges, according to HECC data, but it still decreased for seven.

Some of the smaller community colleges in the state — such as Oregon Coast, Blue Mountain, Southwestern and Klamath — saw increased enrollment this fall.

Klamath Community College, in Klamath Falls, saw one of the biggest jumps in enrollment from last fall — roughly 400 more students which for the small campus equated to a roughly 26% increase in student headcount.

Oregon City’s Clackamas Community College saw one of the biggest drops in enrollment among the community colleges. It saw roughly 2,300 fewer students this fall compared to last year — a nearly 25% decrease. Though, Tara Sprehe, CCC’s Dean of Academic Foundations and Connections, said the drop in enrollment is in the college’s non-credit student population.

“This is particularly true for our community education program and while I don’t have the details, we believe the decrease may be connected to one community education partner rather than an overall decline in community education generally,” Sprehe told OPB.

Blue Mountain Community College is headquartered in Pendleton (pictured) but also operates a campus in Boardman. BMCC is one of the community colleges to see an uptick in enrollment in fall 2022.

Blue Mountain Community College is headquartered in Pendleton (pictured) but also operates a campus in Boardman. BMCC is one of the community colleges to see an uptick in enrollment in fall 2022.

Antonio Sierra / OPB

Sprehe said although the headcount is down from that drop in non-credit students, the students who are taking credits at CCC are taking more of them. Fewer students are taking less than five credits, she said. And full-time equivalent enrollment at CCC has stayed relatively flat compared to last fall, despite the drop in students.


Oregon’s largest community college — Portland Community College — continued to shrink this fall. The school’s student headcount fell by about 4%.

Ryan Clark, PCC’s Dean of Enrollment Strategy & Services, told OPB that although both headcount and full-time equivalent enrollment are down at the college, PCC saw a 2.4% increase in new degree and certificate-seeking students this fall.

Clark noted that many students at PCC continue to face challenges only exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Our students share that they are burned out from a tumultuous few years of navigating the pandemic, both in and out of the classroom,” he said. “The high cost of living in the Portland area and rising inflation adds to the pressures that students face, as many of our students are juggling work and family responsibilities in addition to school. This results in students taking lighter courseloads or not enrolling at all.”

Later this month, Clark said PCC will start the process of developing a “Strategic Enrollment Management Plan” to work on stabilizing the college’s enrollment.

He anticipates that the plan will be finished by June of next year.

Public university enrollment

Some of Oregon’s public universities are faring much better.

Oregon State University, the state’s largest university, shared last week that it enrolled a record number of students this fall — more than 35,000 students. That’s a more than 4% increase in student headcount this fall compared to last year, according to HECC data.

The University of Oregon also saw about a 4% increase in the number of enrolled students this fall compared to 2021. UO announced that this year’s cohort of incoming students is the largest in university history.

Some public universities saw small increases or relative stabilization of enrollment — such as Oregon Institute of Technology and Southern Oregon University.

But others continued to see declines this fall.

Portland State University saw a 5% drop in enrollment this year. That follows a previous enrollment drop of nearly 11% from fall 2019 to fall 2021, according to HECC data.

PSU officials said at a board meeting last month that the university has lost roughly $18 million in gross tuition and fee revenue since the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Eastern Oregon University also saw its enrollment drop by 5% this fall term. Western Oregon University saw its enrollment drop by about 6.8%.