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Some Colorado colleges project optimistic student enrollment numbers. But experts remain wary.

Student enrollment in Colorado is critically important for schools because tuition revenue makes up the majority of college and university budgets

"I'm Bored" sign posted in a dorm room in Lawrenson Hall during the COVID shutdown at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Steve Peterson, Special to The Colorado Trust)

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.

By Jason Gonzales, Chalkbeat Colorado

As the worst of the coronavirus pandemic set in, Jordan Stewart, 18, weighed whether he should take a year off from school instead of heading to college. The Aurora teen eventually decided he should enroll at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“I just realized that if I do take time off, my motivation to get back to school might not be there,” Stewart said.

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Like Stewart, many prospective Colorado college students have begun to decide that despite the pandemic they want to head to college in the fall, giving some higher education institutions a reason for optimism as their enrollment projections look stable from last year.

Student enrollment in Colorado is critically important for schools because tuition revenue makes up the majority of college and university budgets.

But even as student attitudes begin to shift toward attending in the fall, experts believe there is reason for schools to remain guarded as they try to predict what might happen amid the unprecedented pandemic.

Richard Hesel, whose firm provides market research support to higher education institutions, said the true impact of the coronavirus on student enrollment won’t be revealed until the September fall school census.

“The old models of predicting enrollment don’t work anymore in this crisis, because it’s never happened before,” said Hesel, a partner with the Arts and Science Group. “Schools should remain conservative. If enrollment turns out better than expected, then that’s great.”

The pandemic has proven unpredictable for schools, whose leaders have scrambled to adjust during economic closures and are working through numerous plans to open this fall. The need to sanitize buildings and adjust to new ways of teaching students during the spring and upcoming fall semester has brought about huge financial costs.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.


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