Fall 2020 numbers follow nationwide drop in college enrollment

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Sadie Romero, Editor-In-Chief

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Early last week, the provost of COD, Mark Curtis-Chávez, addressed shocking numbers, reflecting a drastic drop in enrollment at College of DuPage for the current academic year. The official enrollment totals, however, will be reported after the tenth day of the fall semester.  As College of DuPage’s enrollment numbers go from a normal average of 24,000 to 17,294 (updated August 24), the numbers follow a national trend of higher eduction struggling to stay afloat amidst the current global pandemic. Both colleges and universities are experiencing significantly low enrollment numbers for the upcoming/current 2020-2021 academic year.

Schools that are offering a type of in-person learning are seeing immediate drawbacks, with the health and safety of students and faculty at risk. Meanwhile, schools that have resorted to complete e-learning for the upcoming term are struggling to adjust to those students who learn best in the classroom setting, or students who simply do not have the means to learn completely online because of limited wifi, low computer availability, inconvenient workplace or other challenges.

College of DuPage faces difficulty in its attempt to construct a safe learning environment for the student body, while also considering specific programs and classes that simply cannot be taught online. There will be 540 hybrid classes being offered this fall, partially online and partially in-person. The provost cautions faculty and students of the busiest campus time, being Tuesdays 6 am to 12 pm, totaling to 475 students on campus at oncewith exact numbers subject to change as the semester continues. Students must maintain social distancing guidelines with proper face coverings for the duration of their time on campus. 

Aside from COD, a large number of Illinois universities are facing multimillion-dollar deficits, not only due to decreasing enrollment, but also the drop in on-campus housing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Although many schools are strictly online, campus housing is still offered to students, which could potentially raise a school’s total revenue for the semester.

While COVID-19 has presented the American education system with major battlesdemanding immediate shiftsthe virus also has a negative impact on the job market throughout the country. As the unemployment rate increased by approximately 6.6% from January 2020 (3.6%) to July 2020 (10.2%)with drastic fluctuation in between, according to Peterson Institute for International Economicsparents and guardians of many students could potentially bestow some sense of financial responsibility upon the other, maybe younger members of the family. Yet, lower-skilled jobs that normally go to college students are instead being offered to the more experienced who are simply trying to stay off of unemployment, leaving the younger generations jobless, as well. This unfortunate cycle creates limited options for families in need, setting aside the less essential—for some, that means delaying education.

Many students, unsatisfied with the schools’ plans to go back, are deciding to, instead take the semester off and save money. 

Joey Weslo, a recent College of DuPage graduate, originally planned to transfer out to a university this year. However, rushing to complete the rest of his educational path does not seem to be the most logical thing for him to do, considering the current state of our nation’s safety and education system. 

“The cost of college has exponentially risen over 200% over the past 20 years, while the standards in education have mostly stayed the same,” Weslo said. “Many students, myself included, think these higher costs do not reflect in the value of remote learning. Most schools completely failed in holding high standards with their online classes at the end of last semester. I have seen little from any university plans showing improvement in this regard.”