Students on campus at Santa Barbara City College.
More students are on campus taking in person classes this fall at Santa Barbara City College, but overall enrollment is down. (Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo)

While Santa Barbara City College’s enrollment is still lower than usual, more students are back on campus taking in-person classes this year.

The college has about 12,000 credit students and 2,500 non-credit students this fall, according to Martha Swanson, SBCC’s executive director of public affairs and communications.

“While the pandemic may have forced us to create more online offerings, we are also finding that SBCC students appreciate the flexibility they offer,” Swanson said. “That being said, we also know many students prefer in-person, and better succeed when in-person.”

Swanson said that about 4,000 more students are taking in-person classes this fall compared to last year.

“It feels like the campus has really come alive once again,” Swanson said. “There’s a palpable excitement about really being back on campus more this fall.”

While there are fewer students taking classes for academic credit, Swanson said, the decline is not as significant as the past few years.

A headcount of students served in fall 2021 shows that there were 13,781 credit students. Swanson said that, as of Friday, the decrease between last year and this fall is 2.8%.

There was a 9.2% decrease in student enrollment between fall 2019 and 2020, she said, and a 5.1% decrease between fall 2020 and 2021. 

As for students enrolled before the pandemic, Swanson said the college is working to help them return to Santa Barbara City College.

“We are proactively reaching out to students who were enrolled pre-pandemic, and trying to make it as easy as possible for them to come back,” Swanson said. “For instance, we’ve held re-enrollment days and offered up to $500 book grants to help cover the cost of textbooks and supplies.”

Santa Barbara City College is still requiring students and staff to wear masks, while the county is in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s medium or high COVID-19 community levels.

Santa Barbara County is in the low level, but the college has a two-week transition period, meaning that masks will become optional on Sept. 16 as long as the county stays in the low tier.

The college will still strongly recommend masks indoors, even when the county is in the low level.

SBCC is also working this year on developing a new 5-year strategic plan.

“The development of a new strategic plan comes at a crucial time for the college, as schools across the country have seen significant changes in how students access higher education and conditions created by the pandemic have revealed a variety of student needs in and out of the classroom,” the college explains on its strategic planning webpage.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.