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The community college numbers show steeper declines than what public universities started acknowledging a few weeks ago in their unofficial numbers.

COURTESY PHOTO: BRYAN VANCE/OPB - Students walk across Portland Community College's Southeast campus on a rainy day in December 2015.Enrollment at Oregon's community colleges is down nearly one-quarter this fall than they were a year ago, according to new figures released Nov. 13 by the state's Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The overall head count of students fell by 23% across the state's network of community colleges, with the number of full-time equivalent students dropping at a similar rate.

While community colleges often withstand economic recessions better than other higher education institutions, with workers seeking job-training courses offered at the two-year schools, that has not been the case in 2020. The community college numbers show steeper declines than what public universities started acknowledging a few weeks ago in their unofficial numbers. Oregon State University officially grew by 1.8%, but it was an outlier, with other public colleges losing enrollment, including an 18.3% enrollment drop at Southern Oregon University. But community colleges fared even worse.

Officials said the declines were shared across the state at all 17 of Oregon's community college systems, but they were worst at Clatsop Community College on the north coast, where enrollment was cut in half — a 52.8% drop, according to HECC figures. Portland Community College, the state's largest postsecondary institution, saw enrollment fall by 21.2%, or by more than 7,000 students.

In a Nov. 13 statement, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission's director of research and data, Amy Cox, noted that the state's two-year colleges were seeing the effects of an economic downturn.

Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their full story can be found here.


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