Local community colleges seeing spike in university transfers as pandemic continues

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — During the pandemic, some families are nervous to send kids off to large universities to live in crowded dorms or Greek life housing. At the same time, many colleges are also shifting classes online. 

That’s now having an impact on local community colleges.

William Phillips is starting his second year of college a lot differently than he expected. He’s attending Johnson County Community College online and only goes to campus for part of one class.  The theater major said going back to Nebraska Wesleyan University this fall just didn’t make sense.

“Being an acting major, just doing acting classes online doesn’t work. So I decided to go to JCCC so I could get some gen eds out of the way,” Phillips said.

He said campus would’ve also felt a lot different with less social activities and no theater events this fall.

“Hopefully I can switch at the semester, go back to Nebraska. But if it still says the same, I’ll stay here ’til it gets better,” Phillips said.

His mom teaches special education at a Kansas City charter school and will be starting her year with virtual classes, too. She’s thankful her son, who was planning to live in a fraternity house, is staying safe at home.

“Health and safety of the community and for my children and myself, that’s paramount,” Sarah Valencia said.

This local mother and son know they’re also saving a ton of cash. Community college classes are a tiny fraction of Phillips’ private school tuition.

“The goal is for him to graduate debt free,” Valencia said.

Johnson County Community College said it’s seeing a spike in late enrollments and transfers from university students like Phillips. The community college is expecting to add more 8- and 10-week classes mid-semester to accommodate even more of them, along with adding back in dual enrollment high school students soon.

“We anticipate we’ll see an uptick as far as new students as well as guest students coming in this fall. It may translate into spring, too. Who knows where we’re going to land with this whole thing,” said Paul Kyle, Johnson County Community College dean of student services and success.

JCCC is also checking out more devices to help students learn online and keeping libraries open for studying and tutoring help. It hopes COVID-19 also reminds students and their families that community college can always be an option to kick-start college education.

“I hope it opens up some more doors for us as far as that’s concerned recognizing, ‘OK, maybe I should stay home one year or two years,’ and word will spread — had a great experience out there, do that, save some money then go on to university,” Kyle said.



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