District officials combat low enrollment

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A lone student walks by the Quadrangle building at Riverside City College on Nov. 9. Low enrollments has left the campus less populated than usual. (Stephen Day | Viewpoints)
By Maria Odenbaugh

Although enrollment is increasing Riverside Community College District Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac is concerned about enrollment based funding.

Isaac said the pandemic is to blame for the decline in enrollment numbers since 2019.

“(The pandemic) has dictated a change in way of life,” said Isaac.

Aside from the pandemic, the increase in jobs available to newly graduated students like warehouse jobs caused a big decline in enrollment numbers as well.

“It is hard, honestly, to compete with a $21 hour warehouse job,” said Bill Hedrick, President of the RCCD Board of Trustees “When you have two of those in a family it starts looking like enough to pay the rent, so that is competition.”

Hedrick also said the economic stress from the pandemic is what hurt enrollment the most. Economic stressors caused high wage jobs in warehouses to be more enticing than furthering education.

According to the Chancellor, the District is trying new ways of advertising and increasing social media usage. Street signs, digital billboards and movie theater advertisements have served as ways to increase enrollment.

The District is trying to promote that community college is another cost saving option for high school graduates besides warehouse jobs. 

“We can make the case to the students in high school both in terms of the quality education we provide, which covers the first few years of the four year university, but also the cost saving,” added Isaac.

RCCD is also conducting a study focusing on the people who left and didn’t come back and asking what stopped them from returning to RCC.

Hold Harmless funding, however, provides a safety net for the District.

The Hold Harmless funding is based off of the pre-pandemic enrollment numbers.

“Because of the low drop in enrollment, if our funding portionally dropped we would be destabilized in a very large way,” said Isaac. “During the pandemic we lost close to 23% (of enrollment).”

The funding provides more time from now and 2025 to work on improving recruitment.

Hedrick explained the importance of improving the school’s reputation and focusing on what percentage of classes are offered in-person or online. He said he has introduced the Trustees to the idea of offering more evening and Saturday classes to accommodate students who work. 

Hedrick looked at other college’s success with moving class times around.

“They have taken classes from what might be considered a traditional work day schedule and moved them to more convenient times for working students,” said Hedrick.

The District hopes these potential solutions will allow more students to find a better work-school balance.

A previous version of this story misspelled RCCD Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac’s name. This has been corrected.

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