The Fullerton College campus is buzzing with energy as Hornets are once again filling halls, classrooms, and the quad. Events such as Club Rush and spaces like the Art Gallery can once more be experienced face to face.

This energy is backed up by fall 2022 semester data, which shows the number of students taking classes at FC up for the first time in two years. Increased in-person learning opportunities and recruitment efforts by the college may be attracting students back after a long period of declining enrollment at the campus.

Students at the first in-person club rush since Covid restrictions. Students have the opportunity to experience a return to in-person events on campus this semester.

Students at the first in-person club rush since Covid restrictions. Students have the opportunity to experience a return to in-person events on campus this semester. Photo credit: Cyrus Burton

Student headcount stood at just over 18,000 as of the third week of classes, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Up approximately 1,500 students from the spring of this year. This is the first time since fall 2020 that enrollment has not declined from the previous semester.

Enrollment has been a long-term problem for the college, peaking at approximately 25,400 total students in fall 2014 and in an overall decline since. This loss in enrollment continued during and was exacerbated by the pandemic – part of statewide and national trends in declining undergraduate enrollment, especially in community colleges.

One factor driving this enrollment gain may be students seeking out expanded in-person instruction, after the pandemic imposed largely remote learning for several terms. Over 58% of course sections are now in person or hybrid, and approximately 62% of students have at least one in-person class.

Another factor bringing students back to campus may be a range of recruitment efforts detailed in the State of the College 2022 report. These include a call center, research, and marketing initiatives.

Enrollment is not only important for the students accessing higher education, but also plays a role in the finances of the college. In California, community college funding is partially based on enrollment.

The state has given colleges a reprieve through at least 2025 from any cuts based on falling numbers of students. At some point, however, if FC cannot recover enrollment, the classes and programs it is able to offer are likely to be threatened.

In an email to the campus community prior to the start of the semester, Interim President Monte E. Perez praised the efforts of those working to recruit students, and expressed hope for the future of the institution.

“Much work has been completed by faculty and staff on strategies to increase enrollment and re-engage our students to return in person and online to Fullerton College,” he said. “We will come back to a place of excitement and commitment among our students.”

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Ryan Billings (He/Him) is an aspiring writer from Westminster, CA.