AACC: Community colleges pay off

Community colleges “launch” students, “relaunch” workers who need new skills and strengthen local economies, concludes a policy brief by the American Association of Community Colleges. Yet community colleges receive 20 percent of state funding for higher education, despite serving 43 percent of undergraduates.

In the  last decade, as states have cut higher education funding, community colleges have cut per-student operating budgets — the only higher ed sector to control costs, the policy brief notes.

Investing in community colleges pays off for students and society, Christopher Mullin, co-author of Community College Contributions, told Community College Times. Graduates with certificates and associate degrees earn more and pay more taxes. “Upskill” training helps workers move up and their employers stay competitive.

Columbus State Community College in Ohio trains workers to become supervisors, the brief notes.

Indian River State College in Florida trains workers for the growing high-tech and energy industries.

In South Carolina, Aiken Technical College trains nuclear technicians for nearby power plants.

A small business development center at Lansing Community College in Michigan provided counseling and job training that resulted in “38 new businesses and $16.5 million in total new capital,” according to AACC. Twenty percent of small business development centers are located on community college campuses.

Some community colleges are developing economic impact studies to show how their contributions to economic growth. Broward College in Florida produces a $1.40 return on every $1 invested by taxpayers, the college’s report claims.

Community colleges tout economic impact

Nine community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties contribute $6.6 billion annually to California’s economy, according to a new study commissioned by the California colleges.

“This report powerfully demonstrates that our community colleges play an important role in driving the region’s economy,” said Francisco Rodriguez, superintendent/president of MiraCosta College and president of the association. “The dollars invested in community colleges are investment in the future of San Diego and Imperial counties.”

Community college leaders are campaigning for the tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown to fund K-12 schools and community colleges.

However, Richard Rider, chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters, called the study  a “bogus” report “done by hired guns.”

Instead of raising taxes, California should raise fees, said Rider.  At $36 per unit, California’s community colleges are the cheapest in the nation and will remain below the national average when fees go up to $46 a unit in the fall.

“California’s tuition is about one-third the national average,” Rider said. “It’s absurd to continue this policy when the state is already billions of dollars short and already has some of the highest taxes in the nation. The students should pay.”

Needy students can apply for a fee waiver. Some 44 percent of community college students qualified for a waiver in 2010-11.