DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Enrollment numbers at some Central Illinois community colleges are slowly but surely inching back from the COVID pandemic’s educational upheaval.

During the pandemic, community college enrollment numbers decreased across the board nationally. The National Student Clearinghouse said that two-year institutions’ first-time enrollment fell almost 20% compared to 2019. Now, they are trying to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

Isaac Zuniga, Richland Community College’s Vice President of Academic and Student Success, said overall numbers are almost the same as last year, but he said dual-credit and new student enrollments are up.

“The trends are great,” Zuniga said. “We have more students than we’ve had in quite some time, but many of those are still facing the realities of having to work and, you know, balance their time and activities with education. And so that’s important for us.”

The number of dual-credit students, or those who get college credits while in high school, is also on the rise for Parkland. Lake Land College saw a 5% increase this fall.

Community colleges have a different set of challenges than universities. Administrators at Parkland, Lake Land and Richland said the diverse nature of their student bodies, like more part-time and older students, makes it a different challenge because they need to target a wider array of demographics to attend their institutions.