Pandemic Period Enrollment and Persistence in the California Community Colleges

Pandemic Period Enrollment and Persistence in the California Community Colleges

Wheelhouse/EdLab Researchers Assess CCC Recovery Strategies


Enrollment in the California Community Colleges (CCC) was profoundly and unevenly disrupted by COVID-19. As colleges work to help students sustain or reengage their paths to completion, UC Davis researchers are partnering with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the Public Policy Institute of California to understand effective recovery strategies. 

Research on Pandemic-Era Innovations

Working with community college leaders in our Research Collaboration Council, the research team has documented successful innovations or other efforts — often supported by federal or state recovery funds –  launched during the pandemic period, with explicit discussion of scalability and/or sustainability of these efforts. These innovations are described in detail in a series of three blog posts published on the Accelerating Recovery in Community Colleges Network web site: 

Federal Research Grants Support This Work

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences has awarded $3 million to support a three-year project called Evidence to Inform Improvement: Supporting California Community Colleges in Pandemic Recovery.  Researchers are working to identify which of these recovery activities contributed to improved student outcomes. The goal is to inform CCC leaders and state policymakers on best practices for improving outcomes post-pandemic. Read the university’s press release here. Learn more about the Research Collaboration Council that informs and contributes to this work. 

To augment this project, Wheelhouse partners with the Community College Research Center in the Accelerating Recovery in Community Colleges Network (ARCC), a national network of research teams investigating community college responses to COVID-19. 

Two downward-pointing arrows showing declines in enrollment

Baseline Analysis of COVID Impacts

Analyzing rich administrative data from the CCC Chancellor’s Office, UC Davis researchers Robert Linden, Michal Kurlaender, Paco Martorell and Scott E. Carrell have laid the foundation for this work with an infographic illustrating changes in student enrollment and persistence in the first 18 months of the pandemic.

Download and read the infographic (PDF)

Systemwide, enrollment declined by 14%. Moving beyond enrollment declines, this analysis also explores how the pandemic interrupted students’ persistence in CCC in 2020 and 2021. Statewide, persistence fell by 5%. Both enrollment and persistence changes varied widely by student characteristics and college campuses. 

Our understanding of pandemic-era CCC enrollment continues to emerge, and there is much yet to know about how institutions and the students they serve will respond to re-engage and recover enrollment. 

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