In late September, a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released enrollment information which revealed that community college enrollments have dropped by an alarming average of 7.5 percent so far this fall.
Some colleges are seeing enrollment increases, though.
Lee College is one of the few colleges in Texas that, despite the pandemic, has seen significant growth in enrollment for both the summer and fall 2020 semesters. The college reported a 41 percent increase in enrollment this summer, and an overall 1 percent increase in headcount for the fall. Dual enrollment at local high schools also increased by 18 percent over this time last year.
Lee College President Lynda Villanueva attributes the positive numbers to a combination of innovative strategies and a strong student focus.
“Lee College continues to innovate around the pandemic,” Villanueva said. “We take very seriously our obligation to ensure our students and local workforce are prepared for success. I am determined to make it easier for people to get the education they need for the career and future they want, and that means removing financial and technology barriers for students in our community.”
To help remove financial barriers, Lee College offered free tuition for all service area students for summer 2020 and partnered with Goose Creek Consolidated ISD and Liberty ISD to provide free tuition for 2020 graduates for the fall semester.
To eliminate barriers beyond tuition, the college introduced the Lee Cares portal to give students an online tool to request help with everything from tutoring to food assistance and technology needs. To date, hundreds of laptops and Chromebooks have been distributed to students, and Lee Cares has awarded more than $1.5 million to students needing assistance with basic essentials.
The college also launched its Real Life, Real Learning campaign, which allowed students to take courses in four different ways. The Lee Streams option provides an in-person instruction experience without the safety concerns people might have with face-to-face instruction. Other options include online, hybrid, and face-to-face classes. In addition, students could choose from multiple start dates for the fall semester to accommodate more people.
Villanueva also challenged her faculty and staff to think outside the box and design a student experience that leads to student success. This includes developing new ways to assess students’ college readiness. Using multiple measures to ensure each individual is placed in the appropriate college-level courses, Lee College is setting students on the pathway to academic success.
“We’re taking a very holistic approach to keep students moving toward their degrees and certifications,” said Villanueva. “Because every student’s needs are different, flexibility and innovation are critical to success now and in the future.”