Shannon Turner (left), coordinator of recruitment and college matriculation at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, and Raymond Harrod, dual enrollment program manager (Photo by City Dreamz Entertainment LLC)
Shannon Turner (left), coordinator of recruitment and college matriculation at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, and Raymond Harrod, dual enrollment program manager (Photo by City Dreamz Entertainment LLC)

This fall, the college enrollment decline that started during the pandemic slowed down. Data released by National Student Clearinghouse showed a 1.1% decline, compared to 6.6%, or close to 1 million students, in the beginning months of the pandemic. 

Though researchers hesitate to call the latest figures a turnaround, officials at community colleges said they continue to see an embrace of their college and career offerings, even with declines in community college enrollment

Shannon Turner, coordinator of recruitment and college matriculation at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, noted that District high school graduates accounted for 2 % of the degree-seeking student population.  

In her role, Turner often interacts with adult learners, returning citizens, and high school students in D.C. and the Central High School area of Prince George’s County.  She said many high school students are increasingly adamant about spending a couple semesters at a community college and transferring those credits over to a four-year university. 

At Prince George’s Community College, student credits transfer because of the college’s partnership with Howard University, University of Maryland College Park and other local universities. 

“Students are looking at costs,” Turner said. 

“With four-year institutions, you may not have to go that route to get an outcome. They’re savvy about listening to their parents and counterparts complaining.” 

In 2018, Turner graduated from Prince George’s Community College with an associate’s degree in general studies with a minor in psychology. During her time as a student, Turner, a transplant from Atlanta, transitioned from culinary arts to psychology. 

Within that time, she also explored a career in recruitment.  

Since graduating, Turner continues to represent Prince George’s Community College. She spends much of her time telling her story. She also  raises students’ awareness to the Pathways Program, through which they can map out their college and career trajectory and save money in the process. 

With the help of DC-TAG, District high school graduates can pay about the same amount a Prince George’s County resident pays per semester, which amounts to less than $3,000. Prince George’s County public high school students matriculating to Prince George’s Community College are also eligible for the Prince George’s County Promise Scholarship. 

During the pandemic, Prince George’s Community College, an institution with relatively few online programs, quickly expanded their online course offerings. Administrators also launched a virtual student support services center. That formula has persisted in the months since educational institutions transitioned back to in-person learning. 

Some administrators, like Raymond Harrod, said that the changes brought on by COVID have made offerings at community colleges and four-year universities more similar than ever before, albeit the trades programs not offered at some four-year institutions.  

As dual enrollment program manager at Prince George’s Community College, Raymond Harrod often interacts with high school students who take college courses long before their 18th birthday. 

As early as the 10th grade, Prince George’s County public school students can enter dual enrollment, and possibly shave off a semester in their college experience, free of charge. Homeschool and private school students, along with students from other school districts, can do the same for half-price.  

Prince George’s Community College is currently gelling together plans for similar offerings

for District public and public charter school students.  

Harrod said that, through dual enrollment, high school students can prepare for the college experience and explore academic areas of interest without any worry about financial burden. They can do so with the help of an advisor while, in some cases, fulfilling high school graduation requirements. 

As the older brother of a homeschool student taking courses at Prince George’s Community College, Harrod said he can attest to how members of that community have spread the word about dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment programming. He said the positive feedback has increased Prince George’s Community College’s prominence as an affordable institution of quality, especially for young people who have yet to get acclimated to college life.  

“When students start college out of high school, it’s a culture shock,” Harrod said. 

“They don’t realize they have to pay tuition. They don’t know they have to purchase their own textbooks,” he added. 

“But dual and concurrent enrollment gives students the chance to see what they want to study.” 

Turner said such accommodations represent the manifestation of what she has known about community college in these economically precarious times.  

“A lot of people are open minded about going to community college,” she said.

This article is part one of a National Association of Black Journalists-sponsored series exploring efforts that local government officials and educational institutions are making to expand high school students’ access to affordable, college and career options.

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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