Efforts to increase criminal justice enrollment at Austin Community College

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect people must be 21 or older to be a police officer in Texas.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As we continue to follow stories about law enforcement staffing struggles — locally and nationwide — we’re learning it’s not just police departments that face challenges with bringing people in.

Faculty at Austin Community College (ACC) said enrollment is down in its criminal justice program.

  • Fall 2021: 506 students
  • Fall 2020: 650 students
  • Fall 2019: 840 students

“What we’re currently trying to do is get more students off of the online programs and get them back into the classroom,” said Delta Jolly, an adjunct professor in the program. “When we do, it’s easier for our professionals who have decades of experience in this fields [to be] able to have these candid conversations, and talk about the current events that are happening. When you’re talking to a computer screen, it’s harder to have those candid conversations.”

In addition to making a push to bring students back on campus, Jolly said the school’s public safety program is also working on sharing new recruitment videos that include a virtual reality look at the program.

In Texas, you need to be 21 to be a police officer. So Jolly says people interested in local law enforcement can take ACC’s course after high school ahead of joining the Academy.

“So when you do have the opportunity to go into the Academy, you already have that chair time and you’ve shown you can learn either through a lecture or hands-on,” said Jolly, addressing the benefits of ACC’s program.

The school said about 80% of ACC graduates live and work in the Austin area, which is another reason they want to up numbers in the public safety program.

Jolly said students who complete the criminal justice system can also pursue careers outside of becoming police officers or sheriff’s deputies — like corrections and forensics.

People interested in the program can learn more on ACC’s website.