Kevin G. Walthers: Hancock emerges from the pandemic | Journalist
Falling college enrollment is big news across the country. And Allan Hancock College is no exception.
Like other colleges and universities, Hancock is feeling the effects of the pandemic – our enrollment is down more than 20% since 2020. The reasons are varied: some students didn’t come to college because they needed to work; many feared exposure to COVID-19; and others struggled to learn online.
Students have been simply overwhelmed with the thought of going to college during the pandemic and are desperate for normality.
In “normal times,” staggering enrollment drops like these would be cause for panic. However, the State of California is taking a proactive approach that will not penalize community colleges for declining enrollment. Governor Gavin Newsom, the State Legislature, and the Community College Board of Governors protect our budget, enabling Allan Hancock College to better serve our community.
As California community colleges continue to receive the lowest per-student funding of any education system in the state, the current budget grace will create stability as we strive to increase student engagement and enrollment. .
We are already seeing signs of recovery at Hancock, thanks in large part to the Hancock Promise – our flagship program which pays tuition and first year fees for local high school graduates. After initial success, the Promise was no competition against a global pandemic, and Promise student numbers dwindled for two years along with the rest of the college’s student body.
However, as we look to the future, our college outreach specialists are rallying high school students enthusiastically about the Hancock Promise. This fall, students can get back to traditional learning: sitting next to their peers in classrooms, learning from their professors in person, taking advantage of time to study, or catching up at the student center, library, or tutoring centers.
Applications for the Hancock Promise are on the rise with over 2,250 applications submitted, a 37% increase over the same period last year! This bodes well for the future of our community, given the return on student investment: Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce reported this spring that the Allan Hancock College records a net present value of $686,000 over 30 years.
Plus, our academic programs are turning heads nationwide. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently presented our agricultural program. In the 1980s and 1990s, Hancock stopped offering a full farm program to avoid program duplication with Cal Poly.
Today, with the growth of Cal Poly, local students need more pipelines to enter agriculture-related majors and careers. Thanks to grants, private donors and district support, Hancock’s agricultural program is thriving, with a 14 percent increase in enrollment last year alone. Students with a passion for agriculture will have more opportunities to further their careers at Allan Hancock College.
Additionally, we remain focused on our older adult student population. Last year, the college earmarked $1 million for the Promise Plus program, which pays tuition for any full-time student, regardless of age or residency. Starting this summer, all students who enroll full-time at Hancock have the opportunity to advance their economic future without the burden of tuition for this academic year.
This is a life-changing program for families in our community and local businesses as they encourage employees to pursue continuing education and apply for Promise Plus to enhance their skills.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Allan Hancock College is more committed than ever to changing the odds for our community. We hope you will join us in raising awareness of the Hancock Promise and Promise Plus programs or making a donation to ensure that the promise we make today will continue to be a promise for decades to come. If we work together, we can secure a strong future for our neighbors and our region.
Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. is the Superintendent/President of Allan Hancock College.