Nevada colleges look to attract more students after pandemic enrollment drop

Nevada colleges look to attract more students after pandemic enrollment drop
Truckee Meadows Community College. Image: Bob Conrad

By Suzanne Potter
This story was originally published by Public News Service.

Nevada colleges, especially two-year institutions, are working overtime to attract more students this fall, in the wake of a big drop in enrollment during the pandemic.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, Silver State colleges lost more than 6,600 students from 2019 to 2021.

Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, said enrollment plummeted by one million students nationwide.

“But the steepest declines are at our community colleges and among men of color,” Cardona reported. “The impact of these ‘missing million’ could be felt for decades.”

Community colleges in Nevada lost more than 13% of enrollment; four-year schools dropped just under 6%. A Gallup poll of adult students found enrollment dropped the most among students who are multiracial, who come from households making less than $24,000 a year, or who act as family caregivers.

James Kvaal, U.S. Undersecretary of Education, said the landscape for education has changed drastically in recent years.

“You have people concerned about getting value for their money in an environment that might go back to being hybrid or go back to being online,” Kvaal explained. “You have child care concerns. You have a very low unemployment rate, which means you have paid alternatives to college that might look attractive in the short term. So we need to think very carefully about how we get people on track.”

Advocates want to see Pell grants doubled, but acknowledged they are glad Congress at least raised the average award by $400 a year in the March federal spending bill.

In 2021, the state Legislature directed millions in COVID funding to the University of Nevada-Reno’s Dean’s Future Scholars program, which helps low-income people who are first-generation college students.