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Colorado community college leaders face a troubling trend as the fall semester approaches — fewer students are projected on campus than last year when pandemic restrictions were at their height.

The projected decline comes even as college officials expect students back for in-person learning. The delta variant’s uncertainty seems to be the cause, according to the officials.

“Right now, our enrollment numbers are down below where they were this time last year, and that’s not good for us,” said Joe Garcia, Colorado Community College System chancellor. “Last year was bad already.”

Across the state, community college system enrollment projects to drop 6.2%. That follows an about 10% dip in enrollment last year compared to the 2019-20 school year. Nationally, other community colleges saw similar declines last year and national experts are uncertain when enrollment numbers will rebound.

Declines are larger in urban areas, Garcia said.

The Community College of Denver, for instance, faces a 23% enrollment decline. Officials there said in an email that they attribute the decline to hardships related to the pandemic, such as a reluctance to ride public transit due to the risk of COVID, family needs and safety fears.


Jason Gonzales is the Higher Education and Legislative Matters Reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado. Previously, he covered K-12 and higher education for The Tennessean and Brunswick County for the Wilmington Star News. He is a 2018 Education Writers...