Enrollment down after Camp Fire, university says

On Monday, Chico State released the official 2019-20 enrollment census to the public.

In the census, the university announced that student enrollment is predicted to see a shortfall primarily due to Camp Fire impacts and competition between other education options in California.

The census included a planned fall 2019 headcount reduction of -266 students (1.5 percent) due to reduced state funding and 2018-19 actual enrollment as well as an unplanned shortfall of 190 (-1 percent).

Officially, the census reported that the total headcount was reported 17,019, which was down 456, a 2.6 percent decrease from 2018-19.

Information from the University Census is vital for students as it plays a vital factor in determining the amount of financial aid distributed. By law, financial aid disbursements must be adjusted for enrollment, or number of units. Before the census was collected, students were encouraged to make sure they were counted for.

According to Census 2020–All Wildcats Count! for every single individual that goes uncounted, Butte County stood to lose approximately $2,000 per person, per year for the next ten years. The funding at risk is spent locally for healthcare, transportation, education, and more. College students are among some of the most difficult populations to count,

To answer questions regarding the census, Sean Murphy, Media Relations Coordinator and Gayle Hutchinson, President of Chico State, hosted a conference call, which they said was intended to demonstrate transparency

“We didn’t want to just sit on the numbers once we had them,” Murphy said.

Despite seeing a dip in enrollment, Chico State is expecting a banner of incoming students to enroll for Spring, said Hutchinson. With new opportunities such as Fall Preview Day during the upcoming Saturday, incoming students will be introduced to the campus and attributes which would encourage them to choose Chico, explained Hutchinson and Barbara Fortin of the office of Enrollment Management.

Hutchinson explained that despite the loss of student enrollment, current and incoming students will not experience an increase in fees.

Some loss in enrollment could be a result from alternative education options such as state community colleges offering two years of free tuition and the University of California (UC)’s mandated increase in state resident students for both freshmen and transfer, or other CSUs with enrollment growth goals, according to Hutchinson. Questions were raised regarding why enrollment saw a decrease after the Camp Fire, especially concerning students who were affected by the fire.

Around 300 students were reported to have been affected since last November. Of those 300, 193 students were calculated to have “stepped-out” of Chico State including 87 students who were calculated as prospective, incoming students. Aside from students, faculty and staff were also reported to have lost their homes in the fire–some even met with early retirement.

However, Chico State has not tracked personal affairs of faculty, staff, and students and does not know how many were actually affected by the fire.

Hutchinson explained that in order to meet the needs of students affected by the Camp Fire, certain commodities must be examined such as the housing crisis and food insecurity.

Fortin continued to explain that there is a liaison constructed between Chico State and off-campus housing in the hopes of battling housing insecurity. She doesn’t think there is a connection between costs of off-campus housing to why students are not choosing to live in these complexes, however — even though 300-500 units were left vacant at the start of the semester.

“Wildfires are burning around the state of California,” Hutchinson said in closing. “My heart goes out to the victims in these counties as well as those who have been affected by the Camp Fire or Car Fire in the past and are facing viscious and triggering memories.”

Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or @kimberlymnews on Twitter.