With more students and fewer dollars, community colleges are struggling to maintain open access, concludes a survey of community college directors released this week by the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. That will affect the president’s ambitious plans to expand the number of Americans with college degrees. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
President Obama has put community colleges at the center of his higher-education agenda, but the push has done little to secure more state money for the institutions. Last year community colleges reported more midyear budget cuts than any other public higher-education sector. Just six of 29 respondents reported that their states fully financed their community-college formulas, the lowest of any year of the survey.
Budget cuts of 2 percent are expected for community colleges in 22 states; 35 states project an 9 percent rise in enrollment. Tuition is likely to go up, creating access problems for some students.
“There is a lot of uncertainty across the states,” said Stephen G. Katsinas, a professor of higher education and director of the Education Policy Center and co-author of the report. “At the same time, there has been little long-term planning. The primary strategy appears to be: Pray, and hope for a state-revenue rebound.”
One third of respondents said their community colleges don’t have the capacity to educate the current numbers of high-school graduates nor future graduates.
Colleges won’t be able to meet the president’s college-completion goal, said Janice Friedel, co-author of the study, in a conference call. “How can you increase graduation rates without more capacity?”
To meet growing demand at community colleges and state universities, California’s higher education system should expand online classes, urges a report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.