Community colleges in the U.S. are continuing to see steep declines in academic staffing, according to the latest report from the American Association of University Professors. It’s the lowest point in two decades, with some of the sharpest declines occurring in the last two years, beginning with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Primarily offering two-year degree programs, community colleges serve a vital role in training the next generation of workers for in-demand fields, such as health care, IT, and construction. But in a tight labor market, would-be professors can find more lucrative work elsewhere.
“When there’s a labor market shortage, the premiums for professionals in those fields is also higher,” Josh Wyner of the Aspen Institute told Marketplace.
Although overall enrollment in community colleges has been sharply declining since the pandemic, hands-on training courses in the skilled trades are on the rise. Construction led the way with a 19.3% enrollment increase in spring 2022, compared to the previous year. Mechanic and repair programs saw an 11.5% increase, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse.