Contra Costa Community College District tackles declining enrollment

The plan is to form new strategies to increase student engagement

One of the challenges facing new District Chancellor Bryan Reece is recovering student enrollment in the wake of the pandemic.

One of the challenges facing new District Chancellor Bryan Reece is recovering student enrollment in the wake of the pandemic.

Sarina Grossi, Staff Writer

Over the past year, there has been a decline in student enrollment within the Contra Costa Community College District. To combat this issue and create more engagement, the school district is partnering with a marketing firm and creating a new enrollment plan for the future.

The drop in enrollment began during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the turbulent economy impacted jobs and income, a virus attacked public health and general isolation damaged mental wellbeing. This decrease has brought about concerns regarding both the district’s budget and the students who did not enroll.

“Working students have lost hours, have lost their jobs, have had to care for their family, had to care for children at home, so it’s no surprise that there’s been enrollment decline,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley. “But it is concerning and we want to do everything we can to re-engage with those students and get them back enrolled so they can get to their educational goals as soon as possible.”

According to District Chancellor Bryan Reece, the drop in enrollment directly impacts the district’s funding. The state has adopted a new funding model, and the temporary “hold harmless” provision that creates a fixed school budget and allows the colleges funding without liabilities will disappear by the 2024-2025 school year. If the current enrollment number of 52,000 students does not increase by 15,000 by then, the district could lose up to $25 million every year afterward. 

The district has been at work to prevent the possible budget loss by building a general marketing plan, or a “three-year Enrollment Recovery Campaign” as Reece calls it, focusing on outreach, engagement and retention with students who had to drop out of college or did not enter college due to the pandemic.

Pullquote Photo

We want to do everything we can to re-engage with those students and get them back enrolled so they can get to their educational goals as soon as possible.”

— State Chancellor Eloy Oakley

“We have to look at how many people are within our county that are the typical community college students that tend to enroll at higher percentages,” said Carlos Montoya, LMC vice president of business and administrative services, “so that’s where that enrollment recovery campaign really kind of comes into play, trying to identify those students, communicate with those potential students and then help convert those students into actual students.”

To help create the marketing campaign, the district formed a search committee, reaching out to over 200 firms to find a marketing partner. Out of the firms that applied, the committee narrowed the group down to nine, and the district plans to concentrate the selection pool and conduct interviews with two or three firms to find their partner. 

Once the partner has been selected, the district hopes to enact the campaign starting in the 2021-2022 school year.

“The reason we’re moving fast is because that ’24-’25 budget,” said Reece, “that budget year will be based on three years of enrollment, the average of three years of enrollment, so we need to affect the enrollment numbers next year.”

Enrollment is opening up for the summer and fall semesters, and the district hopes to encourage students to continue taking courses to further their education.