CINCINNATI — In times of economic uncertainty or rising unemployment levels, community colleges often see a surge in enrollment. While the pandemic has curtailed enrollment for other forms of higher education, Cincinnati State has seen its numbers rise this year.
Around 70% of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College's classes are virtual during the pandemic. The 30% of classes operating in-person require hands-on instruction that can only be done in-person and the school said it has taken stringent precautions with those classes, including following cleaning procedures and social distancing guidelines.
"Our faculty and staff did a tremendous job of planning to address the needs," said Dr. Monica Posey, president of Cincinnati State. "Would focus first on safety but second on quality of instruction."
According to statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, an organization that collects and reports data related to education in the U.S., overall undergraduate enrollment across the nation is down 4%. Community colleges across the country are hit even harder, with enrollment dipping by 9.4%.
In Ohio, undergraduate enrollment has fallen 2.8% this year. Kentucky's rate is down 3.6%, and Indiana is seeing the largest dearth in undergraduate enrollment, down 9.3%.
By contrast, Posey said, Cincinnati State's enrollment is up 3.9%.
"I think it's primarily because of our ability to respond to offer the programs and services that individuals need during this time, but also to make sure we have a very safe environment," she said.
School officials weren't certain what would happen to their enrollment when they made the decision to move most of their courses online, or how their enrollment numbers would weather the pandemic as it continued on into fall semester.
Posey said the school fills an important role in times of economic downturn and uncertainty, providing an opportunity for people to learn the skills necessary to find new careers while preparing current students for finding work in a difficult job market.
"To plan and totally engage faculty and staff and reaching out to students," she said. "Putting student needs first and helping them get back to school."
Another reason she said the school has endured and even increased enrollment this year could be because of the varied types of degrees and schooling Cincinnati State offers. The school provides short-term certificates for those looking to quickly update their schooling and get right into work in addition to associate's and bachelor's degrees.
"Put those different options together, whether it was for job prep or transfer, we have quite a bit to offer," said Posey.