Front Range Community College's Larimer County campus in Fort Collins on March 6, 2020. (Erica Breunlin, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado community college enrollment dipped slightly over last year, an encouraging sign after expectations the pandemic would again deter a larger group of students from attending this fall.

The Colorado Community College System saw enrollment decline half a percent this year compared with last year, according to Joe Garcia, system chancellor. And unlike last year, no school across the state experienced more than a single-digit percentage drop in enrollment.

College leaders across the state worried students wouldn’t show up this fall, especially due to concerns about the delta variant. Many students waited to enroll until the start of school in August, Garcia said, which made determining just how many students would show up on campus this fall difficult.

“They waited until the last minute,” Garcia said. “We worked hard to make them aware of financial aid and other benefits that would make it worth their while to come back.”

Despite enrollment declining slightly, the challenges for community colleges — and their students — remain statewide. Enrollment still remains well below pre-pandemic levels.

That’s troubling for state leaders because community college enrollment can be an important indicator of the overall economic health of the communities the schools serve. The community college system educates the most students of any state system and typically educates older students seeking retraining in high demand jobs. In past economic recessions, enrollment spiked as students sought new opportunities.

During the pandemic, schools have seen a drop-off in the number of older students with families and those who are facing financial hardship.Become a Chalkbeat sponsor

Overall, the enrollment in the system remains down over 10% from 2019.

Read more on Chalkbeat Colorado.

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...