MAGAZINE: College enrollments drop; City College, SDSU students react

COVID-19 is impacting the amount of students applying

Aztec Student Union

An empty Aztec student union. SDSU Instagram photo

Gabriel Schneider, Managing Editor

Legend Magazine CoverThis story originally appeared in the fall 2020 edition of the Legend Magazine

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected several areas of life this year including student enrollment, which is down according to data released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

This has impacted both four-year institutions and community colleges all around the country.

“Community colleges are showing the steepest decline (-18.9%), followed by public four-year institutions (-10.5%),” according to the report.

The drop in enrollment can be associated with many factors, including the current pandemic, making it difficult to keep a job and the challenges that each college had dealing with COVID-19.

Noelle Mortensen, a theatre performance major at San Diego State University who is also taking a class at San Diego City College, said that both colleges have handled the pandemic differently.

San Diego City College, along with the rest of San Diego Community College District, closed their campuses and remained online for the academic year while SDSU created a Flex plan where it offered 200 in-person courses for the fall semester.

“I was originally not even going to come back this semester because nothing I was going to do was offered (in-person),” Mortensen said.

Although many classes were moved to online, the SDSU campus service fees remained, which sparked a petition that nearly had 5,000 signatures on Sept. 22, according to the Daily Aztec.

“I understand that they do need money to fund their testing and fund mental health,” Mortensen said. “I think they should lower the price of the fees.”

With her experience this semester, Mortensen gave advice to any future students thinking of transferring during the pandemic.

“If you still want to learn online, do that, find a different university. I don’t think SDSU is the greatest right now,” Mortensen said. “If you don’t want to be involved with the issue of COVID, then wait it out.”

According to the SDSU website, the total number of positive cases there reached 1,877, which was last updated on Dec. 4.

Brenden Tuccinardi, an advertising major at SDSU and the editor-in-chief of the Daily Aztec student newspaper, said the campus struggled to control positive cases.

“I think a lot of the times there was this belief that (the students) were invincible,” Tuccinardi said.

Tuccinardi said where SDSU fell short was the late notice they gave off-campus residents informing them about expectations and policy violations for breaking public health guidelines, which could have added to their cases.

The California State University system, which includes SDSU, initially extended its application deadlines to Dec. 4, then later changed it to Dec. 15 due to the pandemic.

Joseph D’Ambro, the senior student services assistant in the Transfer and Career Center at City College, said the resources offered to students during this difficult time have increased.

“The UCs are really stepping up,” D’Ambro said. “The CSUs, a lot of local universities that we have relationships with (are) stepping up and providing additional resources. And there are admissions representatives from the actual universities that are helping.”

With the help of community colleges and four-year institutions, students were able to complete applications through online Zoom meetings and by email.

Ian Rebbert, a veteran who is studying business administration, said he still experienced struggles applying to SDSU for the spring 2021 semester.

“At first it was very easy, just because I followed the online instruction,” he said. “But it is all following a piece of paper vs. talking to a counselor and realizing I missed something.”

“All of a sudden I am stressing out and freaking out. If I had talked to someone in person, I could have avoided this mistake, but it turned out not to be that big of a deal.”

Even with the high number of cases associated with SDSU, considered the highest of any college or university in the state, Rebbert said it didn’t impact his decision.

“Especially for us community college students, we have these plans in place for almost two years now,” he said. “We have to pick a school we want to go to. I am going to be staying off-campus for the most part for spring semester anyways.”

SDSU canceled its traditional spring break for the 2021 semester on Dec. 1 in a closed Zoom meeting held by the university’s senate.

“I’m fine with it because I am a community college transfer student, but I can’t imagine for the people who went all four years or if they are a freshman this year,” Rebbert said. “You go to SDSU to get that college experience.”

City College student Duke Shrader applied to several different colleges including SDSU to pursue environmental studies.

“I think the hardest challenge would be not getting the first-semester school vibes,” Shrader said, “trying to get used to things and getting the school atmosphere while not being there in person.”

Shrader said he has hope that students will be able to go on campus in a safe capacity for the fall 2021 semester.

He is looking forward to the new opportunities that come with a fresh start at a university, wherever that turns out to be.

“Even if we don’t quite get there,” Shrader said, “I am sure that we have learned a lot of things from this past year that will help us navigate through the next year after this.”