Recently the Chancellor of SUNY colleges, John King has been making his way through the state of New York visiting schools, in particular community colleges that over the years have faced a drastic decline in enrollments. Chancellor King has made it a point to address why it is that enrollment has declined but more importantly he also has ideas to help fix the problem.

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The Numbers Behind the Community College Enrollment Decline

To properly understand how severe the enrollment decline is, we need to first take a look at some numbers to really see the drastic change. Numbers show that going into the 2022 academic year, community colleges across New York state had less than 160,000 total enrollments. This number is significantly lower than just 10 years ago, when going into the 2012 academic year New York State community colleges had a total enrollment of more than 243,000 new students. So in 10 years, New York State community colleges have seen approximately 83,000 fewer enrollments in their schools.

Adam Berry/Getty Images
Adam Berry/Getty Images

What is the Cause Of the Decline in Enrollments?

Numerous issues apparently have played a role in the steep drop-off in enrollments. First and foremost, it is believed that the Covid-19 pandemic played a role in the drop-offs but to what extent is currently unknown. It is also common knowledge that a college education whether it's at a community college or university level is also very expensive. Money as is with many things in life plays a central role in determining whether or not people can or can not do certain things.

Photo by Sir Manuel on Unsplash
Photo by Sir Manuel on Unsplash

Chancellor King in his most recent visit to Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica that programs offered to students through the colleges also have played a role in the decline. Specifically, King stated that...

We have to make sure that our community colleges and at our four years that we're responding to regional economic development needs, that students are finding programs that they're excited about, that match their interest and we're preparing students not only for jobs, but for citizenships

Asian college student
Suprijono Suharjoto

What Are Some Ideas to Increase College Enrollment?

One of the ideas Chancellor King has in regard to increasing enrollments in community colleges is to reach out and attempt to bring in current working adults. In his own words, King stated...

We've got to make sure that working adults know that there are great programs for them that can help them advance in their careers at community colleges...

King would then go on to say that throughout New York State there are millions of people who have college credits but no college degree and helping those individuals get their degrees is a goal.


In addition, King also stated that addressing the issue of more interesting college programs for prospective students is also on the table. As previously stated by King, you have to find a way to entice and make students genuinely excited and interested in entering a college program.

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What is the Future Outlook for Community College Enrollment?

As it currently stands there are some colleges in New York State that have positive enrollment numbers. For example, at Onondaga Community College, enrollments for the academic year were up by 2%. It represented the first time in years that this particular school had seen an increase in enrollments. 2% may not seem like very much but it is a positive sign moving toward the future.

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In addition, as someone who not too long ago was walking the campuses of SUNY Orange and then SUNY New Paltz working towards his own degree, I can say with certainty that Chancellor King's idea of focusing on acquiring the interest of future students based on more interesting college programs is a good one.

It is also worth noting that college though it can be for anyone, may not be right for everyone. That being said, with some work, Chancellor King's ideas can definitely have a positive impact on future college enrollments and hopefully, more colleges soon see more positive growth.

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