PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Statistics show a drop in college enrollment since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Nationally, public institutions are struggling with their numbers the most– enrollment declined by more than 600,000 students in the Spring of 2022.

However, some local schools like Gulf Coast State College and Haney Technical College are preparing for another school year with classrooms full of students.

“We’re actually trending upwards,” Brittany Weisensale said, Gulf Coast State College’s Director of Marketing and Communications. She continued, “We’re about 4% higher than we were a year ago and our numbers are looking great for the fall semester as well.”

However, Weisensale said enrollment numbers were pretty stagnant before last year.

She said there are a few reasons she believes their enrollment numbers are going up but one of them stands out.

In May of 2021, the ‘Gulf Coast Guarantee’ was introduced. It allows Bay, Gulf, and Franklin County students the opportunity to receive more than 60% off of their college tuition.

College officials said this was the year numbers really started increasing.

Haney Technical College officials said they are also seeing an upward trend in student enrollment.

They said since the pandemic there seems to be an increase in younger people enrolling.

“Bay County actually paid for my first year being here so I came out pretty much debt-free,” Haney Technical College Graduate Joshua Biddle said.

Biddle’s first year was free because he took advantage of career dual enrollment courses at Haney while he was still in high school.

Bay District Schools will cover the tuition and fees at Haney Technical College for some eligible public high school students.