Community college dropouts cost federal, state and local taxpayers nearly $4 billion over a five-year period, concludes an American Institutes for Research (AIR) study on The Hidden Costs of Community Colleges. The study looked at first-year, full-time, credential-seeking students, who are much more likely to graduate than part-timers or returning students, from 2004 to 2009. In every year, about one fifth neither enrolled for a second year nor transferred to a four-year college or university.
For the 2008/2009 academic year, the most recent year for which data are available, nearly $1 billion of taxpayer money was spent on first-year, full-time students who dropped out, about 35 percent more than five years earlier.
“We must pay far more attention to the high costs of low retention rates,” (AIR vice president Mark) Schneider said. “The hidden cost of community colleges is rising,” he said, noting that community college enrollments have grown, while completion rates have fallen.
The report underestimates the full cost of dropouts: Most community college students attend part-time and fail to complete a certificate or degree. Some who make to their second year never graduate or transfer.