Fall 2020 Enrollment Scenarios, Part 3: Community Colleges

The third installment in this series weighing enrollment fall 2020 scenarios amid COVID-19 considers community colleges. These low-cost, no-frills institutions serving less traditional students, whether by age or background, enroll about 40% of U.S. undergraduates.

Community colleges, public two-year schools, might be the “winners” in a pandemic: an accessible beacon for the unemployed and a waystation for four-year-college-bound students, and for their disgruntled parents in the background, unwilling to pay regular tuition if the virus forces schools online yet again. Community college enrollment certainly boomed during the Great Recession. In a pandemic, simpler community college campuses—no big college sports or residence halls—might even make social distancing easier.

Are community colleges ready for an enrollment influx? Or is the prospect of an enrollment surge a mirage or unwelcome? This report looks back at the past two recessions and ponders continuity and disruption ahead.

Download the Report