College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | CR works to grow student body

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, February 8, 2024 - 11:16am

When the COVID-19 virus hit us, one of our concerns, in addition to the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students and community, was the impact the virus would have on our enrollment. We knew that in the immediate aftermath, we would need to work hard to convince new and continuing students who were fatigued by online classes to continue their education. We wondered if these and other students would postpone going or returning to CR, opt for out-of-the-area schools, or decide to go to for-profit institutions that offer a variety of credentials as alternatives to traditional higher education. In any case, addressing our enrollment concern demanded strategic initiatives that would promote enrollment.

Higher education uses a lot of acronyms, so let me provide a brief explanation of how we measure enrollment. The California Community College system uses Fulltime Equivalent Students, or FTES, as a measure that includes both full-time and part-time students. For instance, one student enrolled in 12 credit hours might be considered as one FTES, while two students each taking 6 credit hours would also collectively represent one FTES. The more FTES a college has, the more funding it will receive annually.

Prior to the pandemic, College of Redwoods’ enrollment was trending upward. In 2018, it was a healthy 3,520 FTES and by 2019 it grew to 3,781.

However, between 2019 and 2021, at the height of the pandemic, two-year institutions experienced an 18.9% drop in first-year enrollment. CR was especially hard-hit, losing 1,234 FTES — or 32% of our enrollments during this period.

Coming out of the pandemic, we knew that increasing our enrollments to pre-pandemic levels would be critical for the fiscal stability of College of the Redwoods. Maintaining our funding allows us to invest in academic programs and student support services and makes it possible to plan and allocate resources efficiently. We set an ambitious goal of getting back to our 2019 enrollment level of 3,781 FTES by the end of the 2024-25 academic year or risk state revenue reduction.

Thanks to the combined efforts of all our faculty, staff, and administrators we have started to see positive results in enrollment recovery. In 2022-23 academic year, our FTES was 3,203, a 21% increase from the year before. While it is still very early in the enrollment cycle, we anticipate reaching approximately 3,500 FTES for this year, bringing us close to our goal of 3,781 FTES for next year.

To ensure that we meet our enrollment goals, we will focus on increasing our dual enrollment collaborations with the local high schools, expanding course offerings in Pelican Bay and the county jails, creating additional allied health programs that meet local demand, discovering the optimal balance between online and in-person course offerings, developing a broader range of options through hybrid, short-term, and late-start classes, and providing additional wrap around student services. I believe that this approach will allow for steady growth without sacrificing the quality and experience provided to our students.

I am very confident that, working together, we will be able to navigate the dynamic challenges ahead and propel College of the Redwoods into the future. The initiatives mentioned above will ensure that CR will be here for the educational pursuits of the region for many years to come.