BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Enrollment at community colleges statewide has dropped to its lowest in 30 years, with many now focusing on how to lure students back to school and retain them.
However, the Kern Community College District is seeing the opposite, with a 10 percent increase in enrollment compared to last year.
Associate Vice Chancellor Steven Watkin attributes that increase to programs like STEM, culinary arts and health that offer a range that appeals to all.
“We’ve also been able to not just go and say hey we want to offer programs, we’ve asked the community what do you need […] So, the college is revamping along with the community needs,” Watkin said.
That revamping has led to an enrollment increase of 26% more Black students and 16% more Latino students districtwide, according to the district. All by meeting students exactly where they were.
“African-American students, because we went to the middle schools, we started connecting with parents to promote our early college program because we cannot just wait for them to show up […] For our Latinx students, we started our rural initiatives, so with Arvin and Shafter, we started promoting our early college program, and that has definitely produced some dividends that we’re proud of,” Watkin said.
Leaving the district to understand the key to enrollment is to understand the shift of the needs of students.
“We’re looking at the whole student, not just the student who is in the classroom trying to complete a course, we’re trying to make sure students have the opportunity to be whole,” Watkin said.
The Kern Community College District is still enrolling students at Bakersfield College, Porterville College and Cerro Coso College and will have a virtual enrollment event on Dec. 14 to help students start immediately.