Late Rush of Four-Year Students Rescues Front Range Community College from a Major Drop in Enrollment

Front Range Community College Fort Collins campus. Photo credits - John Young.

Grayson Mroczko

Amid pandemic uncertainty about enrollment, Front Range Community College (FRCC) experienced a late surge for fall, boosted by students attending four-year institutions. 

“The unpredictable nature of the pandemic left many students scrambling for the right institution,” said FRCC President Andy Dorsey. Dorsey said that the bump in fall enrollment was the latest he’d ever seen.

In late July enrollment was around 20 percent lower than the previous year. The late surge meant 2020 fall enrollment was only 4 percent lower than previous years, he said.

Dorsey attributed the drop to many factors. Classroom operations were undecided at the time, and many students did not know what their work lives would look like day-to-day.

Decreases in enrollment were observed at each of the major colleges in Colorado.

Enrollment at Colorado State University’s (CSU) Fort Collins campus was down by 3.6 percent, but by every category: freshmen, first-generation students and undergraduates enrollment suffered. 

Similar numbers were noted at other CSU campuses as well as the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder). Deferrals at CSU increased drastically, in 2019 only about 300 students deferred compared to this year’s 750.

Andy Dorsey, president of FRCC. Photo credits – John Young.

Dorsey said FRCC tracks students labeled as “guest students” each year. He said these are students who are taking a break from normal four-year programs, or who are supplementing FRCC credit hours with the likes of CSU classes.

Dorsey claimed that the fall semester saw an increase of 600-700 extra guest students at FRCC. This increase likely comes from four-year students moving to programs that function better around uncertain schedules and financial duress. 

Dorsey stated that enrollment in the coming semesters at FRCC largely is uncertain. With most of FRCC’s classes being taught online either asynchronously, with an online platform or synchronously through the use of Zoom, he said more students are taking classes online. 

FRCC is trying to forecast how much of this trend toward online learning will persist for the fall 2021 semester, he said. The projection for fall of 2021 has online class enrollment up by 10 percent, and campus enrollment down by 5 percent to 6 percent compared to two years ago according to Dorsey.

Dorsey said these numbers all hinge greatly on how people feel about in-person classes, and if that will even be an option next year. 

Dorsey also claimed that the spring semester for 2021 is planned to function very similarly to how it did this semester remotely with only a small number of in-person classes being added to each FRCC campus.


For more information regarding Front Range Community College, visit: https://www.frontrange.edu

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