El Camino’s enrollment issues are on the mend

As COVID-19 restrictions subside, El Camino enrollment rates have decreased by 29.9%, causing the institution to spring into action to incentivize higher enrollment.

According to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office website, during the fall of 2019, the total number of students at El Camino College was 24,366 and as of spring of 2022, the total was 17,083.

Political science major and student employee for the Student Services building, Samantha Gonzalez, 19, said that the college can facilitate an increase in enrollment rates by adding more classes that don’t require textbooks.

Gonzalez said that El Camino’s vaccination requirement for eligibility to attend campus classes “discourages” students who want to take classes in person.*

According to Dean of Enrollment Services Robin Dreizler, the problem is a statewide enrollment shortage causing fewer students to attend college. The current downtrend, however, has seen an increase in enrollment for the fall semester.

Dreizler said the college administration is adapting to students’ needs. Whether it be online, in person or a hybrid course allowing students to attend classes both online and in person, El Camino has multiple options for numerous classes available for students who prefer flexibility.

El Camino College recently rolled out a new program called the Tuition Relief Program. The program provides tuition-free courses to students for the current fall semester, in addition to the past summer semester.

The last day to apply for the Tuition Relief Program is Sunday, Sept. 11, at 11:59 p.m.

To qualify, students must submit an admission application and apply for FAFSA or CADAA (California Dream act). Students must be also enrolled in at least six units in the fall of 2022.

“Students don’t have to be eligible for FAFSA,” Dreizler said about the requirements for the Tuition Relief Program. The reason why applying for financial aid is a requirement is because the administration wants to make sure that the students were using their “dollars” first.

Further efforts to increase enrollment include a new call center, located within the Welcome Center inside of the Student Services Building. The call center was created to reach out to past, current and present students who have outstanding student balances.

Carlos Lopez, Vice President of Academic Affairs, acknowledged that all California Community Colleges are currently on emergency allowance funding which was emplaced to help community colleges since enrollment was stagnant even before COVID-19.

“As of now, for the fall term, we are 54% back on campus and 43% fully online,” Lopez said.

Lopez confirmed that the other “leftover” percentage are students enrolled in the Dual Enrollment classes that El Camino offers to High school students.

The Dual Enrollment program allows high school students to enroll in classes at El Camino College, enrollment fees are waived for students who apply.

Last year, the state budget allowed colleges three years to rebuild enrollment rates.

El Camino’s new funding base is expected to be set in the 2024-25 academic year, depending on how well the college rebuilds its enrollment rate.

“The expectation is for COVID to go from a pandemic to an endemic, as community colleges renormalize after the pandemic, that enrollment is expected to start back up…” Lopez said.

Lopez said that El Camino College is planning on keeping its selection of courses as substantial as possible as the college prepares for more students to return.

Part-time professors have not been affected by the enrollment rates issue, since classes are available both on campus and online allowing part-time faculty to continue teaching.

El Camino College has been under a lot of pressure to maintain as many classes as possible. Classes that have fewer than 10 students are kept open due to insufficient enrollment.

“If we’re going to be ready for students to come back, we have to have the classes for them,” Lopez said.