Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lack of Funding Limits Community College Ability to Meet National Need

/PRNewswire/ -- Community colleges have for decades received the short end of the funding stick--both at state and national levels. Now a new policy brief from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) points to the consequences of that funding disparity--both for student access and for the nation's economic progress.

Doing More With Less: The Inequitable Funding of Community Colleges paints a bleak and worsening scenario for the institutions that currently educate almost half of all U.S. undergraduates and the highest percentages of first-generation and minority students. During the current economic recession, community college enrollments have surged an average 17% over the last two years, as students and families sought a lower-cost college option. But heightened student demand--coupled with persistent state budget cuts--is now impacting core college activities, the brief asserts, as course reductions, enrollment caps and other cost-saving measures result in denied access for thousands of students.

Ironically, the unremitting belt-tightening on community college campuses comes at a time when both the Obama administration and leading foundations have identified these low-cost, highly accessible institutions as a key solution to increasing the numbers of college-educated Americans over the next decade to ensure U.S. global competitiveness.

Following are key findings from the study.

For the full brief, see

-- Community colleges received just 27% of total federal, state, and
local revenues for public degree-granting institutions from 2007 to
2008, while serving 43% of all U.S. undergraduates.
-- State investment in public higher education has consistently declined,
from 7% in 1989 to 5.4% in 1993 to 4.5% in 2008. (Community colleges
receive close to 60% of operating funds from state and local sources.)
-- Of the $36.4 billion invested directly in higher education by the
federal government, community colleges received significantly less
than did other higher ed sectors for grant programs such as Academic
Competitiveness, SMART and TEACH grants and Federal Work-Study.
-- While community colleges committed a higher percentage of dollars to
instruction (44.5%) than did other sectors of higher education, they
have been unable to allocate adequate amounts to other activities with
demonstrated impact on student success, such as counseling, especially
in advising students how to navigate the complex financial aid
process. Of Pell-eligible students, only 58% at community colleges
applied for financial aid compared to 77% at 4-year public
institutions and 84% at private 4-year institutions.
-- Reduced capacity has especially affected the numbers of students
admitted to high-demand programs such as health care, for which
community colleges prepare more than half of new
professionals--despite a projected need for workers to fill 2.7
million jobs over the next 8 years.

The American Association of Community Colleges is a national organization representing the nation's close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges and their more than 12 million students. Community colleges are the largest and fastest growing sector of U.S. higher education.

This policy brief was supported in part by Lumina Foundation for Education. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Lumina Foundation for Education, its officers, or employees. Lumina Foundation for Education works to ensure that 60% of Americans have high-quality degrees or credentials by 2025. 

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