The inability of Oregon's public colleges, universities and community colleges to offer in-person classes, coupled with economic dislocations, has taken a toll on enrollment—although the burden has fallen unequally.
On Nov. 13, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission announced that community college enrollment is down 23% from 2019 (19% in full-time-student equivalents).
Enrollment at the state's seven four-year public universities is stronger, showing just a 3.8% decline.
Normally, high unemployment, which Oregon and other states are suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sends people flocking to community colleges to improve their job prospects. In 2012, toward the end of the Great Recession, for instance, enrollment at Oregon's 17 community colleges reached 147,219.
Today, enrollment at Oregon community colleges is 88,247, a drop of 40%.
Within the numbers released yesterday, there are huge variations. Enrollment at Clatsop Community College, on the North Coast, for instance, is down about 53%.
Among the four-year colleges, two—Oregon State University (up 1.8%) and the Oregon Institute of Technology (less than a percent)—actually recorded enrollment gains over 2019, while Southern Oregon University in Ashland showed an 18.3% drop. For those engaged in the Beavers vs. Ducks rivalry, the University of Oregon's enrollment is down 3.6%. Portland State University is down 7.8%.
"Overall, the reductions at the public universities are thankfully not as high as many anticipated," said Amy Cox, director of research and data for the HECC, in a statement. "But the community colleges. reductions are steep and likely reflect the hardships so many students and families are facing."