Posted on: December 10, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Sarah Kauffman

By Connor Dore, JRN 111 Student

College enrollment across the country appears to be seeing “the largest two-year enrollment decline in at least the last 50 years,” according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. As the pandemic continues, many students have chosen to put a pause on their education for various reasons, including health concerns, financial instability, and a fear of the future.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Community colleges typically experience an enrollment boom during an economic downturn, as unemployed workers head to college to retrain for new jobs.”

However, that has not happened this time, and Moraine, like other community colleges, is seeing another downturn.

“Overall college enrollment is down 4 percent,” said Sadya Kahn, director of Institutional Research and Planning at Moraine. The census done this spring shows that Moraine Valley has at least 2,400 fewer students than it did a year ago and according to numbers across the nation, this is a common trend. 

According to The Chronicle, universities and community colleges combined have seen an enrollment decrease of 4.3 percent in the last two years. Community colleges, however, have been hit hardest, with the overall enrollment dropping 14.1 percent since 2019. 

Fear still a factor; for some it pays not to enroll

Debi Savage, Moraine’s dean of nursing, believes many students have chosen to opt out of college and the nursing program in particular due to the fear of catching COVID. Students are anxious about going into such a demanding field, especially after hearing the effects the virus has had on patients.

Savage recalls a conversation she had with her colleagues working in a hospital. When describing losing a patient to COVID, all they could say was “how awful the person looked when they passed.”

Another program that has seen a decline in students is the culinary program. Ryen Nagle, dean of science, business, and computer technology, believes we are seeing effects of the lack of workers in the hospitality industry. 

According to Nagle, these open positions likely pulled students away from their education into a full-time culinary position, and with many students struggling financially as a result of the pandemic, there may not have been much of an option. 

“A lot of students are only working in the hospitality industry,” said Nagle. “Jobs that were once paying $10-$15 an hour are now paying something more like $15-$20 an hour,” making it difficult to resist leaving school to work full time.

The pandemic played a large role in Moraine’s enrollment decline, as the added fear as well as the financial struggle were enough for many students to put the brakes on their degrees. But some programs have seen an even greater decline, which hints at another factor. 

Interest in criminal justice waning

The criminal justice program has seen the greatest decline with the loss of 130 students within the last two years.

“There is little argument that the number of students interested in policing has declined,” said David O’Connor, a criminal justice professor at Moraine. “While the civil protests and unrest that have unfolded over the last couple of years has negatively impacted interest in policing, so too has inaccurate media coverage, an increase in police prosecutions, a surge in civil lawsuits against police agencies, and a reduction in legal protections traditionally afforded to police officers.” 

These last few years have held many tragedies, not all as a result of the pandemic and some involving police activity. With these recent events, the criminal justice program’s decline leaves some professors unsure if they’ll have a class to teach next semester.

“Since COVID, I have only taught in the summer semester because the enrollment in Criminal Procedure didn’t require more than one online section,” said Catherine Hufford, another criminal justice professor at MV. “I am supposed to teach this next semester but as of now, I only have four students registered for my class, so I am not positive that I will have enough students signed up to teach.”

Nearly two years into the pandemic, fear still lingers and enrollment is still declining, hitting some colleges and programs harder than others. While concerning, Moraine is hopeful and many professors have thought of ways to boost enrollment in the future. 

While some ideas are still in the works, others have already gained traction. In the beginning, there was a small idea for a student-run dining room to draw attention to the culinary arts program and now, Moraine’s new restaurant, Table 67 is up and running. By spring 2022, it is hopeful that students will be able to enjoy this restaurant that began as a mere idea.

EnrollmentFall 2020Fall 2021Difference
Overall Headcount11,02610,578-448
Culinary Arts3130-1
Culinary Arts (AAS)2527+2
Culinary Arts (Cert)63-3
Nursing (AAS)226207-19
Criminal Justice (AAS)186135-51
Source: MV Institutional Research and Planning
EnrollmentSpring 2020Spring 2021Difference
Overall Headcount13,39810,985-2,413
Culinary Arts3930-9
Culinary Arts (AAS)3123-8
Culinary Arts (Cert)87-1
Nursing (AAS)232221-11
Criminal Justice (AAS)222147-75
Source: MV Institutional Research and Planning