LAKE WORTH — Palm Beach State College’s fall term enrollment is up 6% compared to the prior year as more students returned to school or started their education.
With nearly 25,000 students enrolled for face-to-face and online classes, this marks the first time since fall 2018 that enrollment increased over the prior fall term.
“I’m excited to see more students back in school or launching their higher education to achieve their goals,” said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D. “The pandemic led many students to reassess their plans, and it’s reassuring that they still see the value of a college education and its role in the trajectory of their future.”
College leaders attribute the enrollment hike to strategic outreach, recruitment and marketing strategies, as well as a general interest among students in returning to some sense of normalcy.
“I think they’re coming out of the pandemic period and people are getting back to normal trends,” said Dr. Stephen Joyner, associate vice president for enrollment and retention.
Contributing to the enrollment increase are two initiatives launched during the summer to eliminate financial barriers for students: Restart Your Dream and Fresh Start. The Restart Your Dream initiative, funded by The Foundation for Palm Beach State College, offered free in-state tuition this fall to up to 2,000 students who had attended PBSC from fall 2017 to summer 2021 but stopped. More than 900 students enrolled this term through the initiative. The College plans to extend the offer to the spring term for students who qualified but did not start school this fall.
The Fresh Start initiative, covered with CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief funding, targeted students who attended PBSC between fall 2021 and summer 2022 and had a registration hold because of an unpaid balance. More than 1,500 students have had their holds removed and their past balance paid. Students could not register for classes with the holds on their accounts.
“Both initiatives were successful, particularly Fresh Start,” Joyner said. “I would like to thank the Foundation for Palm Beach State College for its support.”
Joyner said enrollment also is up among first-time-in-college and dual enrollment students, two populations that had declined early in the pandemic as the college moved to remote instruction.
“We have enrolled more new students this fall than in the prior two fall terms,” Joyner said. “It’s a sign that high school students are starting to be interested in college again, and applications are up. During the pandemic, many high school graduates were taking time off. Now they’re starting to come back.”
While enrollment is higher this fall over the most recent fall terms, Joyner says it is not where it was before the pandemic. “We have not recovered and gotten back to the pre-pandemic enrollment numbers, but we’re moving in the right direction. I’m optimistic that the trend will continue.”
More students also are taking face-to-face classes this fall compared to the previous fall, but the highest area of enrollment for the college remains online courses with 57% of course enrollments being for fully online, live online and hybrid classes.
“During the pandemic, students learned the convenience of taking online classes. If they are students looking for convenience, they can take online classes and not have to drive to a different campus or a campus at all,” Joyner said. “It can be easier to take online classes around their work or life schedules, but students who are interested in a more traditional college experience are taking in-person classes.