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News / Clark County News

Clark College enrollment up 10.4%, still about 1,000 fewer students than pre-pandemic

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: October 11, 2023, 6:03am

Fall enrollment at Clark College is up 10.4 percent among full-time enrolled students compared to this time last year, rebuilding from a pandemic collapse in enrollment, according to data shared by the school Tuesday afternoon.

As of Oct. 6, the school maintains 5,932 full-time equivalent students — a number met with glee after dramatic enrollment declines following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After several years of enrollment decline and the impact of the global pandemic, it’s heartening that our state full-time equivalency this fall has increased by at least 10 percent over last fall, surpassing our local enrollment goal for state-funded (full-time enrollment),” said Clark President Karin Edwards. “We’ve welcomed over 8,600 students to start the term, exceeding our college-budgeted targets across enrollment categories.”

Clark also saw a notable increase in its number of students enrolled in Running Start — a dual enrollment program that allows high school juniors and seniors to take classes at community colleges for both high school and college credit. As of this fall, Clark maintains 1,587 enrolled full-time equivalent students, a 10.7 percent increase from fall 2022.

A step forward

While a notable gain after adding just a few dozen students the previous year, Clark’s enrollment still remains more than 1,000 students short of its pre-pandemic totals.

In fall 2019 — the last semester data was recorded before shutdowns, Clark reported 7,473 full-time equivalent students, according to data from the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. The school lost an estimated 10.2 percent of enrolled full-time students between 2020 and 2021, followed by another 8.2 percent drop between 2021 and 2022.

Edwards said last week that the increase didn’t come as a surprise.

“We have been intentional in our efforts to engage more students in our strategic plan. We’re happy to see it’s paying off,” Edwards said. “It’s nice to see parking lots full.”

Jim Wilkins-Luton, Clark’s interim vice president of instruction, attributed the college’s growth to dedicated faculty and the addition of new programs in recent years.

“Our faculty works hard to provide students with learning experiences that meet their needs,” said Wilkins-Luton in the Tuesday release. “Whether it is developing our new bachelor of applied science in teacher education degree or our pending new bachelor of science in computer science degree, Clark’s faculty strive to prepare students for productive lives and living-wage jobs in our community.”