Community colleges “are asked to educate those students with the greatest needs, using the least funds, and in increasingly separate and unequal institutions,” concludes Bridging the Higher Education Divide, a report by a Century Foundation task force. “Racial and economic stratification is connected to unequal financial resources as well as to unequal curricula, expectations, and school cultures.”
Forty-four percent of U.S. college students attend community colleges. Most fail to earn a certificate or degree in six years. While more than 81 percent of entering students say they want to transfer and earn at least a bachelor’s degree, only 11 percent will succeed within six years.
Worse enrolling in community college appears to lower the odds of success for the best-qualified students. Among low-income students who’ve completed trigonometry, a mark of college readiness, 69 percent who start at a four-year college or university will earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 19 percent who start at a community college.
Funding should go to colleges that serve students with the greatest needs and produce the best outcomes, such as job placements, degrees and transfers to four- year institutions, the report argues.
In order to promote equity and avoid incentives for “creaming” the most well prepared students, funding should be tied to distance traveled and progress made—that is to say, consideration of where students start as well as where they end up. In addition, the number of nontraditional, minority and low-income students who achieve each of these outcomes should be monitored.
Higher education subsidies should be transparent, ”including public tax expenditures in the form of tax breaks for private donations, tax exemptions for endowment-derived income, and the like,” to show how little funding is going to colleges that serve less-advantaged Americans.
Creating clear transfer pathways would help community college students reach their goals, the report suggests. Two- and four-year institutions need to work together, perhaps creating joint bachelor’s degree programs. States should adopt “guaranteed transfer” policies.
Four-year colleges and universities should receive financial incentives for accepting low-income community college transfer students, the report recommends. Highly selective institutions should commit to accepting community college transfers for 5 percent of their junior class.
To attract middle-class achievers to community colleges, the report suggests creating “honors colleges” and using “early college” options on campus. At the same time, selective four-year colleges and universities should focus affirmative action programs on disadvantaged students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Community colleges “can become America’s quintessential ‘middle-class’ institutions — serving both those already in the middle-class and those aspiring to become part of it,” Bridging the Higher Education Divide concludes. But, right now, higher education is increasingly stratified. The most selective institutions primarily serve students from educated, well-to-do families, while open access institutions enroll, but usually don’t graduate, lower-income and working-class students.
Community colleges are in the national spotlight, said Richard Rhodes, president of Austin Community College, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges in San Francisco. ”The expectations are higher than they’ve ever been before, but legislators are beginning to understand the trajectory and pathways of our students.”
In addition to tracking the three-year graduation rates of first-time, full-time students, a small minority of community-college students, new accountability measures look at success rates in remedial classes and the number of students complete 15 or 30 credit hours.
One challenge facing two-year colleges, according to the speakers, is that colleges are having to educate more students from more-diverse backgrounds with less money.
At Northern Virginia Community College, for instance, the college’s enrollment has grown by 28 percent over the past four years, while its state budget allocations have shrunk by 20 percent.
Panelists also discussed reforming remedial education, including placing fewer students in non-credit courses and embedding remediation in college-level courses.
California’s community colleges — the nation’s largest public higher education system — have cut as much as 20 percent of courses since 2008, driving enrollment to its lowest point in two decades, concludes a Public Policy Institute of California report.
A half-million students have been shut out in recent years, reports the state community college chancellor’s office. Enrollment fell from 2.9 million students in 2008-09 to 2.4 million students in 2011-12.
Rigo Navarro, a second semester student at Chabot College in Hayward, wants to major in criminal justice and engineering, but hasn’t been able to take math or a criminal justice, reports the Oakland Tribune. In the last two years, Chabot has closed 12 percent of classes.
Statewide, the number of for-credit classes fell by 14 percent between 2008 and 2011, while non-credit classes, such as English as a Second Language, dropped by more than a third.
New students must wait to register until continuing students have chosen classes. That’s made it hard for recent high school graduates to get started at community colleges.
The number of young, first-time community college students in California fell even further behind the number of recent high school graduates between 2008 and 2011 — a trend that, combined with lower CSU and UC enrollment, “does not bode well” for the state’s workforce, the report’s researchers concluded.
The state and the colleges must come up with a long-range plan to restore the system, concluded the report, which listed raising local parcel taxes, increasing tuition significantly, helping more students get financial aid and charging more for high-demand classes as options. In addition to raising revenue, online education and larger classes could reach more students.
Senate Pro Tem Leader Darrell Steinberg has introduced a bill to let state college students shut out of classes receive transfer credits for some private-sector online courses.
The Pell Grant program is not going over a fiscal “cliff” any time soon, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report. Policy changes have turned a projected deficit into a surplus, reports Inside Higher Ed.
At the end of fiscal year 2013, the program will have $9.2 billion left over. Congress could fund the program at current annual appropriation levels — right now, the total program cost is $36 billion, with $23 billion from annual appropriations — for 2014 and meet the program’s needs, said Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation. The shortfall for 2015 is only $1.4 billion — much smaller than the $8.7 billion previously projected.
In September, the Education Department reported that the Pell Grant program cost $6.5 billion less than expected in the 2011-12 fiscal year, and $2.2 billion less than in 2010-11. That decrease, driven both by eligibility cuts and by a drop in spending on students at for-profit colleges, also came as a surprise to many observers.
The $1.4 billion shortfall in 2015 is “manageable,” Delisle said.
After years of higher education cuts, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal gives the state’s colleges and universities “good news for the first time in years,” reports the San Jose Mercury News.
The CSU and UC systems would each receive an additional $125 million, thanks to the passage of two tax initiatives. Community colleges would receive $197 million more in general-purpose funds next year. That means “community colleges can begin to make room for some of the hundreds of thousands of students who have been shut out of our system due to recent funding cuts,” Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said in a news release.
The governor’s plan also calls for expanding online education, transferring adult education from K-12 districts to community colleges and funding community colleges based on student enrollment at the end of the term, not the beginning.
The California Community College Online Initiative plans to create a centralized “virtual campus” to provide online courses. In addition, the chancellor’s office will expand options for students to earn college credit by passing a “challenge” exam.
Students would be held accountable too, writes Kathy Baron on EdSource.
A significant, and likely controversial, piece of the budget proposal would cap state subsidized community college classes at 90 units. Beyond that, students would have to pay full freight – from $127 to $190 per credit based on a quarter or semester calendar.
The latest figures, from the 2009-10 academic year, show that 4.7 percent, or more than 117,000 students, exceeded 90 units.
Student leaders oppose the idea. There’s also controversy about shifting control of adult education.
Community colleges will get an additional $300 million to fund the adult education takeover plus $15.7 million for an apprenticeship program. Adult ed would provide basic skills, English as a Second Language, citizenship classes and vocational training, but no enrichment classes for older adults or parent education.
“Any moving or shifting of adult ed to community colleges is a serious concern,” said Dawn Koepke, a lobbyist for the California Council for Adult Education. “It doesn’t make sense at all. Adult ed is tied to K-12 because we’re talking about basic skills and access. The infrastructure is already in K-12.”
Funding community colleges based on end-of-term enrollment would be phased in over five years. Lost funding would be used to fund student support services.
With state funding often failing to keep up with enrollment growth, community colleges have struggled in the past decade, concludes a U.S. Treasury report, The Economics of Higher Education. Meanwhile, for-profit college enrollment has soared.
Community colleges depend on state funding, notes the Huffington Report. State funding has fallen behind enrollment gains, caught up, then lagged from 1999 to 2009, according to the report.
In 2009, community colleges received approximately $6,450 per FTE (full-time equivalent) student, only slightly higher than the $6,210 in 1999,
According to the report, the funding decline for public colleges and universities bottomed out in 2005, then slightly increased before dropping again in 2008.
Because of the budget squeeze, community colleges are pushed to either raise tuition or or to limit class size, and often choose the latter, leading to a correlating spike in for-profit college enrollment. According to the report, community colleges are “more likely to serve low-income and first-generation student populations than four-year schools, and these students now constitute the bulk of the student population at for-profit schools.”
Both community colleges and for-profit colleges primarily serve low-income and first-generation students, the report found. When public colleges put students on wait lists, the for-profits expand quickly to meet the demand. While completion rates are low for community college students, graduation rates are high for students in for-profit vocational programs of two years or less. And there are no wait lists.
Community colleges “took the greatest hit” in 2010 as higher education struggled to recover from recession, concludes the Delta Cost Project in College Spending in a Turbulent Decade.
All colleges and universities are trying to serve more students with less money, the report found. “As funding failed to keep pace with historic increases in enrollment, educational spending per student plummeted to its lowest level in a decade.”
Community colleges suffered the greatest financial hardships.
Historic enrollment increases, combined with sharp losses in per-student revenues from state appropriations and meager increases in net tuition revenue, resulted in significant cuts to academic spending per full-time equivalent (FTE) student. Community colleges concluded the decade spending less per student than they had ten years earlier.
State universities were able to preserve spending on instruction and student services, while private four-year institutions implemented widespread cuts, the report found. Although students covered a larger portion of educational costs, sharp tuition increases were not enough to offset lost revenues.
Funding for community colleges continued to fall further behind other public institutions. . . They were the only public institutions at which average total operating revenues per FTE student declined in 2010 and also were lower than a decade earlier. Community colleges suffered the deepest cuts in state and local appropriations per student in 2010, with funding reduced by approximately $1,000 per student; however, they also limited the new money coming from net tuition revenue more than did other types of public institutions.
Efforts to keep community colleges accessible and affordable while accommodating more than 40 percent of new higher education students—often the most economically or academically disadvantaged—have significantly eroded the resources they have to devote to each student.
The growth in less costly, shorter-term certificate programs cut the cost of completion in community colleges from 2000 to 2010.
To avoid paying for health insurance, a Pittsburgh community college will cut the work hours of 400 adjunct instructors and support staff by Dec. 31, reports Breitbart. Under Obamacare, employers have to provide insurance for employees working 30 or more hours a week. Community College of Allegheny County will cut part-timers to 25 hours a week. Adjuncts will be limited to teaching 10 credit hours a semester, down from 12, for $730 per credit hour. In all, the college will save $6 million.
The college can’t afford to fund benefits, said CCAC spokesperson David Hoovler. “Several years of cuts or largely flat funding from our government supporters have led to significant cost reductions by CCAC, leaving little room to trim the college’s budget further.”
“It’s kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said adjunct biology professor Adam Davis.
“We all know we are expendable and there are plenty of people out there in this economy who would be willing to have our jobs,” said Davis.
CCAC’s faculty union doesn’t include adjuncts, notes Inside Higher Ed.
Adjunct English professor Clint Benjamin, who has been teaching at the college for six years, pays out-of-pocket for catastrophic health care coverage only and had vague hopes of improved insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Not only is he now ineligible for such help, but the course load reduction will translate to up to $600 less in pay each month.
But Benjamin still will be working full-time. Between the college and nearby Duquesne University, he currently teaches seven courses per semester. He estimated he works up to 70 hours per week, but doesn’t qualify for health insurance at either institution.
“There’s frustration and anger and sadness and resentment, you know, but you don’t have a voice,” Benjamin said.
California community colleges will add classes and cut wait lists, now that voters have approved tax increases to fund education, reports the Los Angeles Times. An additional $210 million in funding will be used to serve about 20,000 more students during the academic year, new community colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said.
The system’s 112 community colleges had been reeling from state funding cuts of $809 million since 2008, with course offerings slashed by almost a quarter and nearly half a million fewer students.
About $50 million of the new funds is earmarked to increase student access and $160 million to replenish services funding that has been deferred by the state since the recession started.
“I’m guardedly optimistic that we’re beginning to find the bottom in California,” Harris said. “We believe so goes California, so goes the country. This system is so large and so significant that we were fearful that if we weren’t able to stop the bleeding, it would begin to affect the country as a whole.”
Time is the enemy of college completion, warns Complete College America. The longer the path to a degree, the less likely students are to make it. In California, thousands of community college students are taking one class per semester and many more are taking fewer classes than they want, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The first course Charity Hansen is taking as a freshman at Pasadena City College is a basic class on managing time, speaking up in discussions, setting ambitious goals and then going after them.
If only she could.
It’s the only class she managed to get this semester. No math. No English. No science.
Nearly 4,000 degree-seeking students at the college are taking a single class this fall after the college cut 10 percent of classes to save money.
“The students who are here, we’re desperately telling them ‘Don’t drop out, don’t give up hope. We’ll get you through,’”said Mark Rocha, the college president.
The problem is statewide.
Since 2007, money from the state’s general fund, which provides the bulk of the system’s revenue, has decreased by more than a third, dropping from a peak of nearly $3.9 billion to about $2.6 billion last year.
Without enough money, course offerings have dropped by almost a quarter since 2008. In a survey, 78 of the system’s 112 colleges reported more than 472,300 students were on waiting lists for classes this fall semester — an average of about 7,150 per campus.
Cinthia Garcia went straight from high school to El Camino College — six years ago. Unable to get the classes she needed for her graphic design major, she moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at Pasadena City College. Advanced art classes there were full, but she managed to get one web design class, replacing a student who’d dropped out.
Garcia once planned to transfer to earn a four-year degree, but now she sees even a two-year degree as out of reach. She hopes to get enough classes to earn a certificate.