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Should community colleges recruit the rich?

Community colleges aren’t segregated by race or income, argues Jamal Abdul-Alim in Diverse.

“Community colleges are inadequately funded and they’re increasingly segregated by race and class,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation in announcing a new report, Bridging the Higher Education Divide. To increase diversity, community colleges should recruit middle-class and affluent students, recommends  the report by the Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal.

However, two of the report’s charts show community colleges enroll a range of students, Abdul-Alim writes.

One chart shows that the lowest two income quartiles—those who earn less than $36,149 and those who earn between that amount and $66,620, respectively—each comprise 31 percent of public two-year college students, while those in the upper quartiles comprise 23 and 15 percent, respectively.

Whites are slightly underrepresented at community colleges, where they make up 57 percent of the students but 61 percent of the overall population. Hispanics, on the other hand, are overrepresented, making up 18 percent of two-year college students but 13 percent of the overall population. All other groups, including Blacks, have community college populations that are roughly proportional to their percentage of the overall population.

Honors programs would attract more affluent and high-achieving students, the report suggests. However, “the challenge is to offer programs that simultaneously will be highly attractive to students who might not otherwise consider community college and yet at the same time avoid becoming tracking devices that segregate students within community colleges.”

Many community colleges are putting students on wait lists already, responds Daniel Luzer in Washington Monthly’s College Guide. If community colleges recruit more rich kids, where do the poor students go?  “Oh right, they go to for-profit colleges.”