December 2021 Advocate: Impact of enrollment declines on adjuncts

Adjunct Faculty

How enrollment declines have impacted part-time faculty in our district

by Eric Brenner, Advocate Editor

Reflecting the trend of community colleges throughout the state (see references below), SMCCCD enrollment has experienced major declines since the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, which accelerated enrollment reductions that had been trending downward for a number of years before Covid.  From Fall 2016 to Fall 2021 the number of full-time equivalent students (FTES) in our three colleges dropped by about 30% (from 8159 to 5734), including a loss of more than 12% in just the last year. (see chart) Fortunately, since SMCCCD (as a “community-funded” district) is funded primarily from county property tax revenues, reduced enrollment does not have a significant impact on the district’s budget. While the number of course sections throughout the district has not declined as rapidly as enrollment figures (a 9.8% reduction from 2196 sections in Fall 2016 to 1981 in Fall 2021, see chart) the ongoing reductions in sections have nevertheless directly impacted adjunct faculty assignments. The number of part-time faculty teaching in the district has declined 5.7% from 542 in Fall 2016 to 511 in Fall 2021.**

Productivity & efficiency data above courtesy of of Office of Planning, Research, and Institutional Effectiveness (PRIE), Skyline College. Special thanks to Zahra Mojtahedi, Senior Planning and Research Analyst

SMCCCD Faculty Headcount: Fall 2016 – Fall 2021

FT Faculty PT Faculty
Fall 2016 338 542
Fall 2017 353 522
Fall 2018 362 556
Fall 2019 354 544
Fall 2020 354 515
Fall 2021 380* 511*

* Note: The above faculty headcount figures from Fall 2016 through 2020 are from the state CCCCO Data Mart. The Fall 2021 figures are from SMCCCD HR Department.

The union has encouraged administrators to try to maintain the number of sections in order to provide the most options for students and thereby help prevent even greater enrollment losses. During the pandemic, smaller in-person classes also reduce the danger of spreading the virus and smaller student-teacher ratios provide greater opportunities for faculty to support individual students’ needs, especially as those needs have increased dramatically with all of the Covid-related impacts.  In response, the district has agreed to allow a lower minimum number of students per section. The Spring 2022 MOU will continue to include the agreement that “All classes, whether online or in-person, will not be canceled so long as they achieve a minimum enrollment of 10 students.”

AFT 1493 wants to see the impacts on adjuncts minimized as much as possible. The following additional language, which is in the Fall 2021 MOU and has been proposed by AFT to be continued in the Spring 2022 MOU, provides some more protections for part-time faculty:

  • “If a part-time faculty’s load falls below 40% due to the cancellation of a class, the part-time faculty member will qualify for half the medical stipend reimbursement.”
  • “Not teaching in Fall 2021 does not affect a part-timers position in the seniority list.”

In negotiations for the Spring 2022 MOU, the AFT has also proposed that:

  • “Part-time faculty who are assigned a course and then have it canceled will be compensated 15 hours at the special rate per course for time spent preparing.”

Adjunct faculty members who have questions or concerns about assignments, benefits or any other issues related to their working conditions should contact an AFT 1493 representative:


References to articles on California community colleges enrollment declines since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic:

Nov. 12, 2021 — Dramatic enrollment drop won’t cost California community colleges state aid but could impact adjunct faculty (EdSource)

Nov. 4, 2021 — California community college enrollment drops below 2 million students, more than previously reported (EdSource)

Oct. 25, 2021 — Community college enrollment drops worry campus leaders (Inside Higher Ed)

March 19, 2021 — Enrollment declines at California’s community colleges far greater than earlier predictions (EdSource)

December 17, 2020 — ‘Losing A Generation’: Fall College Enrollment Plummets For 1st-Year Students (NPR)

December 10, 2020 — Community colleges hardest hit as college enrollment among high school graduates falls nationally amid the pandemic (EdSource)