Published April 1, 2021

To the Shasta College Community:

I can hardly believe that it is already spring break next week.  I trust you have at least a little time planned for renewal and rest.

COVID-19 Update
One of the challenges we are facing is interpreting guidelines and applying them to our operations.  I want to thank the EOC and Cabinet for their diligent work in this area over time.  You many not know this, but the last updated guidance for higher education was from around the end of September, 2020.  The focus seems to have been on getting vaccines rolled out, and on updating K12 guidance.  So please continue to be patient as we plan for more staff and courses returning to campus over time, yet still applying a cautious approach with caveats that things can change over time.  

With that said, I am happy that we do have some guidance on larger gatherings and graduation ceremonies that we can apply to our plans and we are planning a modified, in-person graduation ceremony this May.  We have a guest speaker lined up and are planning on spreading out graduates with appropriate social distancing and face coverings. We believe we will be able to have a limited audience of family come sit in designated areas of the stands assuming the guidance does not change.  If we get to the orange tier by then, it is a little easier to manage.  I want to thank Student Life, Campus Safety and Physical Plant for all their work in planning for this, and I am hopeful the weather will cooperate this year!  Note that we are still figuring out how many students we will have, and how many faculty will attend as we are limited to about 600 people on the field when spreading them out following current guidelines. There are many other details being worked out, but this is good news for us.

Additionally, I want to encourage us all to continue to plan on the adjustments needed to, over time, get more and more operations happening back on our campuses. Our communities are yearning for more in-person opportunities, and we will be bringing back those opportunities over the coming months as we are able.  I know many of our CTE faculty have done amazing things in person over the past months.  We have learned much from assisting them in this, and I believe we will see many silver linings over the next few years from our forced move into the virtual world.  I do not want us to simply come back to the way we used to be; we need to come back better than we were in serving students and helping them learn.  I look forward to hearing ideas and stories as to the ways in which this unfolds over the coming months. 

Lastly, I want to update everyone on our enrollment levels.  Many colleges are down, especially community colleges.  Attached is a recent article from a national perspective on enrollment trends last fall, with community colleges faring the worst as a sector.   Shasta College is currently projected to be down around 17-18% this year.  Reengaging lost students - both those who dropped and those who never came, must be one of our main foci over the coming 18 months. Sadly, I believe that a large portion of these lost students are those who face the most challenges in attaining college success, our most vulnerable students (Research Team - is there a way to study this theory? Let me know  ).  At this point, this enrollment drop is not included in the 3-year average of the 70% portion of the funding formula based on enrollment levels, but we do not know if that will be the case for 2021-22.  A final reflection: it is not too surprising that we are down around 18% when you think about the forced switch to fully-online learning for the majority of our offerings.  I believe that much of that loss is from people who simply do not want to take on-line courses and who did not want to deal with on-line college when their kids might have to be doing distance learning.  We also did see a drop of around 8-9% of our normal percentage of local high school graduates coming directly Shasta College in the fall.  

OK - this has been a long update.  Thanks again for all you are doing to serve our students and our communities. 

Joe Wyse
Shasta-Tehama-Trinity Joint Community College District
11555 Old Oregon Trail
Redding, CA 96049-6006