Community college enrollments nationwide, including at Cuyahoga Community College, were some of the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of students at two-year public institutions are people of color and/or women. Both of those groups were disproportionately affected during the pandemic.
Early data from Tri-C, though, shows its tide may be turning slightly.
Enrollment is up about two percent for the spring 2023 semester compared to the same time last year, according to preliminary data provided by the college. Total headcount clocked in at 16,044 students, up from 15,720 in spring 2022. That’s about a 2.1% increase.
Officials zeroed in on two potential reasons for the uptick: offering a variety of class types and lengths to “meet students where they are.” There’s also more of an emphasis on redesigning the student experience, officials said, like offering flexible payment plans.
That was a point of emphasis when Tri-C President Michael Baston talked to Signal Cleveland in December 2022. He said he and his team were working to streamline and refine Tri-C’s enrollment process, in part to help Black students return. Enrollment of Black students fell about 36 percent from fall 2019 to fall 2022.
“I think that that will go a long way to making it easier for all students, but particularly for Black students, to have a better experience on the front end of coming into the institution,” he said.
This spring, the number of Black students taking classes at the college grew by 3 percent, rising from 3,745 students to 3,864 students.
Some other two-year public colleges nationwide are also reporting preliminary spikes. Tri-C officials hope the numbers will rise with an additional session of classes offered later this spring, too.
Amy Morona covers higher education for Signal Cleveland, in partnership with Open Campus.