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Community College Enrollment Falls As Students Grapple With Job Loss, Online Learning

David Lewis was just a few credits shy of earning his associate’s degree in journalism from Long Beach City College when the pandemic hit.

Lewis, 29, was already encountering scheduling conflicts between his classes and a new job at Trader Joe’s. As the assignments for his online classes started to pile up, he struggled to keep pace. In March, he left school. 

Lewis is one of thousands of California community college students who didn’t return to school this fall as the coronavirus pandemic upended their lives. Enrollment at California community colleges is down more than 9 percent from the year before, mirroring a national trend, according to a recent survey from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), which tracks enrollment trends across the country. 

The data confounded the predictions of some higher education experts that community college enrollment would rise this fall, as it has in previous recessions, with the coronavirus motivating students to stay closer to home. 

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