Could Community Colleges Be the ‘Winners’ of COVID-19?
Community colleges and two-year institutions across the United States are facing the same daunting question: What do we do about fall 2020? Should we return to campus or continue online? Those questions aren’t unique to community colleges, but the answers are.
Unlike traditional four-year institutions, community colleges don’t have to worry about residential life, large-scale sporting events, and most have already been offering online courses pre-COVID-19. Yet, many community colleges across the country decided as early as May that they would continue operating remotely until the spring 2021 semester. The cost benefit of having enough funding to test every student that comes to campus was too great of a financial risk for many. Instead, many community colleges will continue to provide their students with online services.
However, if lessons from the past are any indication, community colleges may be in a prime position to help students during these uncertain times. A report released by Eduventures, a higher education research and advisory service, noted during both the dot com boom and the 2008 recession, community colleges saw a spike in enrollment:
Between 1999 and 2002, the bookends of the dotcom crash and subsequent economic downturn, community college enrollment jumped 18% (the community college enrollment dip in fall 2001 may have been due to the shock of 9/11). A few years later, the Great Recession spurred a 16% enrollment boost between 2007 and 2011.
Roughly 70% of traditional four-year institutions will return to an online and in-person hybrid. Yet, with little to be desired for another remote semester, some students may turn to community colleges to keep things ticking along with transferable course credits at a lower cost than their four-year institution. This will be particularly appealing to low-income families displaced from work due to COVID-19—whether that is a traditional college-aged student, or an adult seeking a new career direction or new skills.
So, what does this all mean for career services staff at community colleges? Be prepared for a diverse group of students come fall 2020. This means continuing to remotely connect and engage with students and employers to guiding students to the right courses for the jobs they seek. Career services professionals at community colleges will need to provide workshops on various transferable skills from one industry to another, actively look for employers hiring for remote jobs within their communities and be prepared for a diverse age range of students. This also includes developing virtual career fairs based on specific job markets from engineering, social sciences, and healthcare.
With Symplicity CSM, community colleges can “rise to the challenge” by providing students with the tools and connections they need to enhance their employability while preparing to succeed in today’s job market. Not only does CSM provide students with the largest employer network in the space, it also provides staff with the ability to track post-graduation outcomes and translate it into meaningful trends that will resonate with stakeholders. CSM enables institutions to measure and report on critical KPIs around student engagement, streamline student and employer outreach, and run robust OCR and experiential learning programs.