Enrollment decreases for the fall semester at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Community College are not as substantial as officials had predicted earlier in the year.
Officials were unsure of how the coronavirus pandemic would affect college attendance and projected 15% drop in undergraduate enrollment at UCCS, but it didn't materialize. Instead, the headcount of 9,767 undergraduate students reflects a 4.2% decline over the fall of 2019, spokesman Jared Verner Monday.
“As we were able to finalize how our fall courses will be delivered with in-person, HyFlex (a combination of in-person and remote), remote and online through the summer, we saw new and continuing UCCS students start to finalize their decisions for the fall by enrolling in courses,” he said.
About one-quarter of students are taking courses through a combination of an in-person and remote instructional model, with one-third of credit hours being delivered live online.
When fall registration for Pikes Peak Community College started in March, the onset of the pandemic in the U.S., enrollment was down by 38%, spokeswoman Karen Kovaly said.
But a significant rebound occurred. Classes started Aug. 24, with enrollment down 9% over the fall of 2019 for a total of 12,685 students, she said.
“So we’ve made some real strides and are pretty happy with the results,” Kovaly said.
At UCCS, total fall enrollment is at 11,747, an overall drop of 3.6% from a year ago, Verner said.
But enrollment in graduate credit hours increased by 4.8%, officials reported. The 1,980 graduate students is about the same number as last fall.
Work over the summer to address COVID-19’s new sanitization and safety protocols, along with newly created instructional models, helped soften the blow, UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy said.
“Faculty and staff created a learning environment that allowed our students to feel confident returning to campus this fall,” he said.
UCCS has recorded eight positive COVID-19 cases among staff and students confirmed by the campus wellness center since school started Aug. 24, according to public health data. Three cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus were in the past week, and five people have recovered.
The campus, one of four in the University of Colorado system, conducted more than 600 online events during the summer for incoming and returning students to answer questions about what the fall would look like amid the pandemic, Reddy said.
For Pikes Peak Community College, with five years of flat or slightly increased enrollment, the dire spring projection mobilized staff to figure out how they could increase interest among prospective students, said Warren Epstein, executive director of marketing and communications.
Without being able to recruit high school students in person because schools statewide closed in March, officials launched virtual recruitment through town hall-style events. New messaging centered on the value and career effectiveness of a community college education.
All 13 community colleges statewide adopted the campaign, which Epstein said helped boost growth.
The projected 35% decline in fall enrollment statewide in reality became about a 9% drop overall, he said.
“We think we’ve had some real victories amidst some real challenges,” Epstein said.
While exact numbers aren't yet calculated, the majority of PPCC lecture classes are being delivered remotely, and student enrollment in traditional online classes has increased by 40%, Kovaly said.
PPCC has had five positive COVID-19 cases, Kovaly said.
UCCS kept tuition at the same rate as last academic year and started a Chromebook loan program for incoming students for use during their academic careers.
A growth of 15% in the School of Public Affairs at UCCS is credited to new undergraduate and graduate social work programs, Verner said.
It’s not unusual for graduate enrollment to rise nationwide during challenging economic times, he said.
“Additional or different graduate training is often viewed as one of the most effective avenues when seeking new or evolving career opportunities,” Verner said. “National data continues to suggest that the higher the level of degree attainment, the greater the earning power over a lifetime.”
This article has been updated to reflect five positive COVID-19 cases at Pikes Peak Community College.