Community colleges see drop in enrollment during pandemic

Neosho Community College expected to see more students as businesses shut down and more SEK residents were unemployed, as happened in the previous recession. Instead, enrollment dropped 9.5%.


State News

October 21, 2020 - 9:27 AM

Courtesy photo

TOPEKA — Neosho Community College president Brian Inbody relied on precedent to make assumptions about how the pandemic of COVID-19 could influence enrollment at the southeastern Kansas college during a period of massive unemployment and business realignment.

In wake of the brutal U.S. recession from 2007 to 2009, he said, enrollment at Neosho Community College increased 21% per year over a three-year period. Early in the pandemic of 2020, higher education institutions were thrown into an online instructional format as COVID-19 spread into the heartland. Unemployment in Kansas surged from 3.1% in February to 11.9% in April. The stage appeared set for community colleges to answer the bell of another recession.

“We were expecting an enrollment increase this fall originally,” Inbody said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “If you think about what happened in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 because of the economic downturn, what we saw was nontraditional students who had lost their jobs come back to community college to be retrained.”

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