Community colleges more popular than ever
May 2, 2012 1 Comment
Community colleges have been getting a lot of press lately, most notably from the President in his State of the Union address this year. These two year post-secondary schools have been charged with the task of preparing students for specific tech jobs, four-year colleges and universities, and “to put unemployed Americans back to work.” However, a report released this month by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) notes that the schools are struggling to graduate students, despite a greater focus on academic excellence and an increase in enrollment. In fact, less that 50% of students who enter community colleges graduate or enroll in a four-year institution within six years.
It seems however that the graduation rate at community colleges has not deterred students. The 1,200 two-year institutions in the United States have seen an increase in enrollment in the past decade. About 5.5 million students attended two-year schools in 2000, now that number has surged to 8 million. The increase is most likely due to the economic climate, since a year of community college costs approximately $5,000 less than in-state tuition at a public, four-year school.
Community colleges were founded to be open-access institutions, but recently they have been growing into serious competitors for four-year schools. The President of the AACC noted that people are figuring out that the “quality of the courses in freshman and sophomore year at community colleges [are] comparable or better than four-year schools.” Over 40% of community college students are first generation college students and more than half are older than 22. It is projected that by 2018, 29% of the American workforce will have associate degrees.
With the growing concern about the financial future of four-year colleges and universities, perhaps community colleges will be answering the call for more opportunities for more students in higher education and the need to prepare student to enter a competitive workforce.
Posted by: Devon Thorsell
Source: U.S. News and World Report
Photo credit: White House “Community College to Career” Bus Tour courtesy of flickr user Barack Obama