Per credit hour enrollment is down 6.5%.
That's the biggest drop since the school opened in 1991, which creates an issue for its proposed spending plan.
Heartland is planning to spend 3.5% more this year.
So with a loss in tuition revenue, it is now forced to consider cutbacks.
President Dr. Allen Goben said Tuesday the areas impacted could include athletics, contractual services and staff.
But he cautioned layoffs are a last resort.
"What we're doing is attempting to allow retirements and natural out migrations to take place as much as possible so that those give us the personnel flexibility to maybe retool around that and not have to cut any positions or anything," he said.
Goben added students appear to be choosing jobs over education now that the economy is showing signs of improvement.
He also said it's a trend many other community colleges are seeing.
Heartland trustees are set to act on the $32 million budget September 25.