The Brookhaven Campus saw a 15% decline in student enrollment for the Fall 2021 semester, according to data collected by Dallas College. The number reflects about 2,300 fewer students than in Fall 2020. Brookhaven usually has 13,000 students each semester.
Across all campuses, Dallas College enrollment dropped 7.1% compared to the Fall 2020 semester. Brookhaven lost the most students, followed by El Centro Campus with a 14% decrease.
Enrollment shows a trend of students returning to physical classrooms. During the Spring 2021 semester, 1,726 students attended some form of face-to-face classes across Dallas College. As of Oct. 11, 34,255 Dallas College students were attending in person.
Ruben Rubio, a success coach at Brookhaven, said he was not surprised students decided to return to in-person classes. “Last spring, we had some students talk about how online classes didn’t fit their learning style,” Rubio said. “They would prefer to have a more direct connection with their instructor. We kind of anticipated this was going to happen.”
Rosario Prado, an admission specialist at Brookhaven, said many factors contributed to the drop in enrollment, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 impacted finances for a lot of people,” Prado said. “Many of our students may be helping with the family finances by working and/or they simply can’t afford school right now. COVID-19 impacted mental health. Students may not be ready to come back.”
Shelly Garcia, a success coach at Eastfield Campus, said she noticed the decrease in enrollment too. “I think a lot of people are just overwhelmed with everything else,” she said. “And they can’t put another thing on their plate such as getting their education.”
Prado said another contributing factor could be students finding other ways to make a good living without an education. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” she said.
Recent high school graduates also contributed to the drop, Garcia said. “It seems like this generation coming out of high school wants to avoid any kind of debt,” she said. “Most people associate getting a degree or attending a higher education with getting debt.”
Enrollment has been on the decline nationwide, Prado said. COVID-19 has added to the challenges. “We don’t know how long it will be before we settle into a new normal,” Prado said.
According to a study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, higher education enrollment fell to an all-time low during the Spring 2021 semester. Enrollment dropped from 17.5 million to 16.9 million, a one-year decline of 3.5% – seven times worse than the decline a year prior. Undergraduate students made up all of the declines at a 4.9% decrease.
Community colleges took the majority of the hit at 9.5%, or 476,000 fewer students. Sixty-five percent of the undergraduate enrollment decrease occurred in community colleges. However, graduate studies enrollment increased by 4.6%.
Registration for the Spring semester opens Nov. 16 for current students and Nov. 22 for all students.
Classes begin Jan. 18. Brookhaven students can discuss class options with a success coach by joining a virtual drop-in meeting or by visiting the Brookhaven Success Coaching Center in Room S113.