After pandemic enrollments fell for more than a year, the state’s community colleges are rising again as California continues to reopen. The $ 7.6 billion stimulus package signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in February provided over $ 100 million in stimulus aid.

Like the rest of the state, North Bay has seen a drop in enrollments in its community colleges. Between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020, the average enrollment at four colleges – Santa Rosa Junior College, Napa Valley College, College of Marin, and Mendocino Community College – fell 29.2%. This comes from EdSource of Oakland, a nonprofit information study and analytics organization.

To recover, colleges are stepping up their marketing efforts, adding new courses and degrees, and offering students a variety of in-person, online, or hybrid courses.

Santa Rosa Junior College

All of the community colleges in the North Bay suffered from protective orders, particularly when enrolling in hands-on courses such as welding, automotive, medicine, and culinary arts.

At Santa Rosa Junior College, Dr. Pedro Avilla, vice president of the Student Union, on the 21.4% decrease in enrollment – the smallest decrease among the four community colleges profiled in this history – that about 15% of the decrease were in these types of student courses.

Other factors in lower enrollment at SRJC include students who worked in the hospitality industry and lost their jobs because they could no longer afford college, and the difficulty for some students to easily switch to an online-only environment. said Frank Chong, president of SRJC.

However, during the pandemic, SRJC has continued to offer at least 200 live courses for occupations that are considered essential, including police, fire and rescue workers, nursing, dentistry and radiology, Chong said. And there were still graduation classes.

“As autumn approaches, we will be opening even more live courses and we look forward to gradually reopening our campus,” said Chong. Online courses, which he said were the most popular before the pandemic, will continue along with hybrid courses, where lectures are given online and face-to-face experiences.

SRJC also got a boost in the spring when Derek Corsino, an additional culinary faculty member, appeared at the Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship, said Benjamin Goldstein, dean, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Culinary Arts.

“And some of our other faculties have pretty big cookbooks published,” Goldstein said. “So our faculty is truly the avant-garde of the culinary industry, and it’s great that they are bringing that knowledge back into the classroom for our students.”

Napa Valley College

Napa Valley College plans to expand its hospitality, kitchen and tourism management programs in the fall of 2022 to offer an Associate of Arts degree in culinary arts.

Elena Sirignano, program coordinator and cook, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. She also helped open the French laundry after Thomas Keller took it over in 1994.

The last year has been tough, she said.

“We still had students wanting to take classes, but we had to limit classes to six to keep them socially aloof when designing the kitchen,” she said. “I’ve had students who had heads and then fell away and said, ‘I can’t handle this. I can’t. It’s just too mind-boggling’ and they just disappeared.”

The students currently in the program remain busy and as the program expands, more opportunities will arise in the future.

“I have students who work on-site and want to advance to leadership positions,” said Sirignano. “And I have people in their second and third careers” who want to fill their bucket list. She also taught a successful restaurant specialist who wanted to complete a culinary arts program.

Dr. Sara Parker, assistant superintendent / vice president for academic affairs, said the fall schedule will be released this week and NVC will offer just over 30% of its total courses on campus.

“We are determined to increase our number of personal offerings,” said Parker, “but continue to work on the existing guidelines for higher education, which have fairly strict capacity limits.”

Parker said last year’s challenges created opportunities too. The college held a virtual job fair about three weeks ago, which they described as “very well attended”.

“Sometimes these online virtual experiences give new people the opportunity to participate who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do so if they had to travel or the timing wasn’t quite right for them,” she said. “I think that’s actually something cool that came out of that experience last year.”