Community colleges find themselves in a state of limbo as COVID-19 continues to disrupt the normal enrollment process.
Cloud County Community College, which has its main campus in Concordia and offers classes in Geary County, is seeing a slump in fall enrollment, officials said.
However, summer enrollment increased this year compared to 2019. At the Concordia campus, enrollment went up from 79 students to 108; it went up from 72 to 103 at the Geary County campus; and the online enrollment went up from 418 to 462, said Pedro Leite, vice president for Academic Affairs and Student Success.
While it is too early to know how COVID-19 will affect the 2020 fall semester, he said it appears that initial numbers are down from last year.
“We are still enrolling students so, it is (too) early for us to project how enrollment will end up,” he said on Thursday. “As of today, we are slightly behind as compared to the same period last year.”
He attributes the decline to the changes in starting dates at colleges, universities and high schools.
“Students are not sure what to expect,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to communicate with current and prospective students about measures that we have in place to assure their safety and try to have a normal semester as we possibly can.”
Students can enroll up to the first week of classes, which starts Aug. 19. The last day for on-campus classes is scheduled for Nov. 24. From Nov. 30 to Dec. 10, all classes and final exams are expected to move to an online format.
Highland Community College officials weren’t available Friday to speak about their enrollment numbers.
At Fort Riley, where the military base’s Education Center houses several universities and colleges, Shirley Avant-Ferguson, education services officer, said some classes will start Monday, but overall interest is down.
“We’re not doing as much as we would do because of the social distancing, and people are still unsure, but we’re doing okay,” she said.
The first classes to kick off the new semester are the leadership skill enhancement courses offered through Barton County Community College.
Avant-Ferguson said every classroom at the center has been arranged to facilitate social distancing. Following the Fort Riley mandates, masks are required and people are required to wash their hands as they enter any building on post.
Outside of Barton, the other schools are delaying their classes until their enrollment numbers go up or there is direction from the home campuses.
“K-State has gone to nothing at this time because they’re associated with the main campus, and they are holding off,” Avant-Ferguson said. “University of Mary — they will start (night) classes in September.”
The center’s other colleges are in flux as well.
Hutchison Community College will start its Certified Nurse Aide class on Aug. 10, and Southwestern College has not scheduled any of its classes for the fall semester.
Central Texas College is trying to do a combination of in-person and online classes “but they are not sure, they may have to postpone,” Avant-Ferguson said.
Upper Iowa University just started its enrollment, which will end Aug. 30 with an expectation to start classes the following day. Central Michigan University is putting all of its classes online.
Although exact numbers for enrollment are not available, Avant-Ferguson said they are down across the board.
“It’s all because of the uncertainty,” she said. “Our schools on post are still governed by their main college. Whatever their main college is doing is what they are following suit with here on post.”
Despite the uncertainty, the delays and changes, Avant-Ferguson said the education center is doing well under the circumstances.
“We are managing to put things in place with social distancing, with the mask — instructors as well as students washing their hands — we’re following all the procedures and we’re still being able to maintain college enrollment,” she said. “Even though (the numbers) are low, we’re able to maintain students.”