August 3, 2022

COVID, economy cited for Nevada college enrollment declines

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Call it a form of long COVID, but more than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, student enrollment at the College of Southern Nevada is down about 25% from the fall 2019.

Not only that, but the drop apparently hasn’t bottomed out, with registrations down 5.5% today from last fall, CSN officials said.

“We realized that the largest student population that contributed to this decline are underserved and underfunded students,” James McCoy, the school’s vice president of academic affairs, told the Las Vegas Sun.

“Higher education may not — because of the pandemic, because of the economy — become a priority” for some students, McCoy said.

The College of Southern Nevada has the highest enrollment among universities in Nevada, with nearly 34,000 students in 2022.

But it’s seeing fewer students enrolling straight out of high school, so it’s stepping up efforts to reach those students, officials say.

What is happening at the CSN is emblematic of what is happening in colleges and universities across the country.

In undergraduate programs in the United States, enrollment has fallen by 1.4 million throughout the pandemic, according to a report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Spring 2022 saw a decline of nearly 662,000 students, a 4.7% drop from the same period the year before. Public institutions accounted for the majority of the decline, losing 604,000 students including 351,000 from community colleges, according to the report.

In total, community colleges have lost more than 827,000 students since the start of the pandemic.

“I thought we would start to see some of the declines start to come down a bit this quarter,” said Doug Shapiro, the center’s executive director. “I’m surprised it seems to be getting worse.”

For the spring 2021 semester, enrollment at Nevada colleges and universities fell 4.7%, then another 2% a year later.

At Nevada State College, enrollment had increased through spring 2022. The school had 7,287 students enrolled in fall 2021, but as of fall 2022, it has 7,215. Only about 34% of this group are last year’s revenue, a retention rate that has dropped from 54% the previous year.

“Our students face a variety of challenges, and some of these students are impacted more than others in terms of the significance of those challenges,” said Tony Scinta, executive vice provost at Nevada State College.

Financial pressures are among the main reasons for declining enrollment as some students delay their studies to pursue work, Scinta said.

Each semester, students pay nearly $200 per credit in compulsory fees, which can amount to about $600 for a three-credit course. This does not include the $150 special construction fee for students taking more than three credits, the $25 per credit distance learning fee, and the fee for special courses – which may vary by class.

A 12-credit semester for college students can cost upwards of $2,000.

The school has taken a number of steps to boost enrollment, including offering more scholarships and grants, as well as other financial aid, he said.

At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, enrollment has been rising steadily since 2017 but fell by about 400 undergraduates in 2021, officials said. The campus had nearly 26,000 students as of fall 2020.

“Any time we see a drop in student admissions or enrollment numbers, that’s cause for concern,” said Kate Korgan, senior vice provost for academic affairs.

First-generation students and those struggling financially are perhaps the least likely to return, especially given the financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been intentional enough to make sure that students who have the fewest financial resources and who are at the greatest financial risk of not being able to stay in school receive quite substantial support,” Korgan said.

UNLV has also stepped up recruitment efforts, including holding more virtual admissions sessions, officials said.

“We feel really good overall about where we landed. … It’s like we’re entering something that feels like a new normal,” Korgan said.