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      and one of BusinessWest’s Women of Impact for 2020, said many individuals and families are simply coping with too many issues right now — from balancing life and work to trying to find employ- ment, to simply putting food on the table — to consider adding a college education to the mix.
Beyond that, one of the real strengths of community colleges is their personal style of learning in the classroom, something taken away by the pandemic, and something that is keeping many stu- dents on the sidelines, Royal continued.
“We have a lot of students who prefer in-person learning,” she explained, noting that, in what would be normal times, roughly 20% of courses offered by the school are taught remotely; now, that number is closer to 95% or even 98%, and it will be that way at least through next spring. “So some students feel frustrated that the pan-
  Yves Salomon- Fernández says the pandemic has in some ways accelerated the pace of change when it comes to jobs and the workforce, and community colleges will need to help individuals thrive in this altered
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 demic is continuing; what they thought would be a one-semester impact is now much more than that.”
But maybe the biggest reason this crisis has hit the community colleges harder than other institutions of higher learning is that this has not been an equal-opportunity pandemic, said John Cook, president of Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), noting that it has impacted those in urban areas, those in lower- income brackets, and those in the minority community more severely than other constituencies. And these individuals, which
  “From 2012 until now, we’ve lost about 40% of our enrollment. This is staggering for any industry, any sector, and it tells a certain story about community colleges.”
were already struggling in many ways before the pandemic, form the base of the student popula- tions at all of the state’s commu- nity colleges.
“For us and for the other com- munity colleges, this is a con- versation about equity,” he told BusinessWest. “We are a college that has a majority of students
of color, and we’re seeing steep enrollment declines. It’s right in line with the way the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the African-American community
         and the Hispanic community.”
Add all this up, and the region’s community colleges have had
a very trying time since the spring. There have been cutbacks — STCC has had to cut several programs, for example, everything from automotive technology to landscape architecture (more on that later) — and workforce reductions by attrition at each school. And no one is really sure when the picture might at least start to bright- en, which may be the biggest challenge of all.
“I’m encouraged, like the world, by vaccines, but just like every-
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