Investing in community colleges

Concerned about college access and affordability, education donors are looking at funding community colleges, reports the New York Times.

. . . as college diplomas become increasingly important and costs continue to shoot upward, foundations are asking how they can ensure that low-income students attend college and graduate.

These questions are especially relevant at community colleges, which enroll nearly half of all freshmen each year, typically those with the weakest academic records and the lowest likelihood of graduating.

Community colleges are a better investment for donors, says Gadfly.

However, most students who start at a community college with hopes of earning a degree never make the distance. California’s community colleges do poorly in helping students earn a degree, concludes a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Of students who entered community colleges in 1997, half left after a year, said Ria Sengupta, the report’s co-author. About a quarter of students who enter with the intention of transferring actually transferred, and only one in 10 who took transfer- or degree-oriented classes earned an associate’s degree.

White and Asian-American students were much more likely to transfer to a four-year institution than black and Hispanic students.

Less than half of students primarily take general education courses that will enable them to transfer to a four-year university or earn a two-year degree; 16 percent take vocational classes, 14 percent focus on basic skills and English as a Second Language and others enroll for enrichment classes.

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Comments

  1. Many community college students are also working — and quite a number of those are single parents, or parents who are both struggling at low-paying jobs. One of our local groups has been trying to raise funds to help with child care expense, designed specifically to help single moms complete their education. Tuition at community colleges is usually low, or non-existent– but if the student has kids of his or her own, child care costs can make it impossible.

    Even more than tuition grants, I think foundations could make a big difference for a not-so-many dollars on this front.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    The report also says that because of cutbacks, night and weekend classes are being curtailed, and therefore fewer older students are enrolling.

    This, in my opinion, is a big mistake. I’ve taken about twenty community college classes at two local community colleges, just for fun. I’ve noticed that in the classes I’ve taken, the older students are typically better disciplined and more focused than the younger students. They’re there to learn, and they provide good role models to the sometimes feckless teenagers. Moreover, we ought to be offering public education to all adults, not just teenagers.

  3. Wayne Martin says:

    > I’ve taken about twenty community college
    > classes at two local community colleges,
    > just for fun.


    http://www.lao.ca.gov/main.aspx?type=3&CatID=4

    http://www.lao.ca.gov/2006/major_features/major_features_2006.html#I
    UC System: $3.08B
    CSU System: $2.788
    CCC System: $4.1B

    The budget provides the California Community Colleges (CCC) with $4.1 billion in General Fund support for 2006-07, which is $388 million, or 10.4 percent, above the revised 2005-06 level. In addition, the budget provides CCC with another $305 million in one-time funds that, for Proposition 98 purposes, will count toward prior fiscal years. Virtually all of CCC’s General Fund support counts toward the state’s Proposition 98 expenditures, as does CCC’s local property tax revenue. Total Proposition 98 support for CCC in 2006-07 is $5.9 billion, which is 10.7 percent of total Proposition 98 appropriations.

    http://www.lao.ca.gov/handouts/education/2006/Higher_Education_Issue_5.pdf

    In 2006-07, the statewide resident undergraduate fee at the University of California (UC),
    the California State University (CSU), and the California Community Colleges (CCC) covered
    33 percent, 26 percent, and 11 percent, respectively, of each systems average operating code per student)

    http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/cacounts/CC_1106RSCC.pdf

    The FTE funding for 2006-07 is $5,346. Only about 10% of those attending receive AA degrees.

    A few interesting points here. I wasn’t aware that the Community College System was sucking down the lion’s share of the funding for higher education. The 2-Year 10% AA “degree” is roughly equal to the 10% CSU 4-Year degree, although it stands to reason that a significant percentage of these people who receive AA’s will not receive BS/BA degrees.

    The 4+B being included in the Prop.98 budget partition is something I was unaware of.

    CCC students are subsidized at the 90% level — while only about 10% are “graduating”.

    It’s clear that this system needs a wholesale housecleaning, but it’s so large and there are so few people in the Legislature who care that it’s likely that this mess will just get bigger and bigger.

    Also missing in these numbers are the local property tax assessments for facilities. The CC in my area has passed $500M of local taxes which just disappear from this sort of analysis.

    People with degrees should be expected to pay “true costs” for classes taken at the CCs. Distance learning should be embraced in this system aggressively to reduce costs.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    People with degrees should be expected to pay “true costs” for classes taken at the CCs.

    Why? Why is education for its own sake not as worthy of support as education to earn a degree?

    In my opinion, community colleges ought to be a place for lifelong learning: for hardworking high school students who want a challenge, for young high school graduates who plan to transfer to four-year colleges, for people who didn’t succeed in high but are now older and motivated to seize a second chance, for community members of all ages who just like to learn. All these groups can be found at my community college.

    BTW, fifteen or so years ago, all students, degreed and non-degreed, paid the same fees. Then that was changed, and students with degrees were charged a higher fee. Then, perhaps because students with degrees are more likely to vote, it was changed back.

  5. Wayne Martin says:

    > In my opinion, community colleges ought to be a
    > place for lifelong learning: for hardworking
    > high school students who want a challenge, for
    > young high school graduates who plan to transfer
    > to four-year colleges, for people who didn’t
    > succeed in high but are now older and motivated
    > to seize a second chance, for community members
    > of all ages who just like to learn.

    As long as you pay your own way and don’t expect others to pick up the tab for your “learning”.

    Distance learning should be used to satisfy these needs at the lowest cost possible.

  6. My son’s at a California CC now and the biggest problem is that he can’t get all the classes he needs to get the credit to transfer to a UC. Schedles conflict, pre-reqs conflict–it’s very frustrating.

  7. Wayne Martin says:

    http://www.venturacollege.edu/publicrelations/assets/pdf/ccc_fastfacts_2006.pdf

    A couple of other data points about the CCC system (2004-05):

    All Students (Headcount): 2,516,036
    Full-time Equivalent Students: 1,040,381
    Noncredit FTEs: 91,640

    Number of Student Transfers to Four-Year Public Institutions, 2004-05:

    CC to UC: 13,211
    CC to CSU: 53,693
    CC to In-State Private
    or Out-of-State Colleges/Universities: 24,805
    CC Students Transfer-Prepared: 135,479

    (Transfer-prepared=students with 56 units including transfer-level English and Math)

    Degrees and Certificates Awarded
    Associate of Arts (AA) Degree: 58,233
    Associate of Science (AS) Degree: 19,976

  8. Wayne Martin wrote:

    As long as you pay your own way and don’t expect others to pick up the tab for your “learning”.

    More easily said then done. All the government meddling has distorted the market in education at both K-12 and higher. Unfortunately one of the more popular political catch-phrases of the past year or three is “making college more affordable”. Naturally, college isn’t made more affordable and the price hikes that follow expansions of student aid merely set the stage for further demands to make college more affordable.

  9. Wayne Martin says:

    > All the government meddling has distorted
    > the market in education at both K-12 and
    > higher.

    Agreed.

    California has one of the more Byzantine education funding schemes of the states. The Legislature has really mucked every thing up. The Sacramento Bee ran a fairly good series on CA education financing a couple of years ago (“Who’s Paying For the Schools”). In some cases, the funding allocations and reporting is so convoluted that school districts hire consultants who have been charged with various infractions of the law for failing to report their clients use of funds correctly.

    In the case of the CCCs, the aid is direct–90% reduction of fees through a transfer from the CA General Fund to the CCCs. The fact that there is little accountability in the use of the money (people pay about $25-$35/credit hour for classes means that they can drop out with no consequence. The CA Taxpayer gets stuck with the bill.)

    One approach that might be useful to pursue would be to provide Distance Learning classes for people who are poorly prepared for any level work at all. If they decide that “college” isn’t for them, the taxpayers would have to provide classroom space for them to come to that decision.

    For the people who seem to be having problems with courses needed to complete Degree/Certificate requirements should be offered Distance Learning classes.

    Four Billion Dollars is a lot of money to spend for people to “have fun” or drop out.

  10. Having been in a community college, I’ll add this wrinkle to it: many poorer students arrive from 12 years of public school SO poorly prepared that making to the level of classes that transfer to a 4-year school would take them several years. In fact, I’ve met a couple of people who started at my CC 10 years ago in the elementary English classes and have just now finished with their college-sophomore-level English and math classes. The taxpayers of California have paid for these people, both California natives who started in Kindergarten in 1980, only to get their AAs in 2004 after 24 straight years in school. These were the rare few who, after a brief taste of the real world, decided they needed the education they’d blown off, and been allowed to blow off by their previous teachers and schools (and their parent). Most students in a similar boat, even if far less severe, look at the long journey ahead of them and turn the other way. Truth be told, were I in their shoes, I’d do the same.

  11. Cardinal Fang says:

    There are many problems with the California education system, but California community colleges really are “affordable” for most students. Students pay $17 a unit, and it’s due to go down to $13/unit. In my classes, the textbooks end up costing more than the tuition.

    There are some students for whom even the existing small tuition is a burden. For them, scholarships are available.

    A bigger issue for lower income students is being a college student while working forty hours a week.

  12. Wayne Martin says:

    > A bigger issue for lower income students
    > is being a college student
    > while working forty hours a week.

    Given the 90% dropout rate at the CCC, perhaps the whole model of pubic education for adults should be rethought. Travel time to classes (not to mention the cost of gasoline and parking) would certainly cause one to think that providing basic skills classes (such as remedial English, Math and ESL) could all be taught at local Adult night schools in the local school system. The cost of facilities for CCs isn’t in any of these cost models. Here in California, it costs the better part of $1,000 per square foot for public buildings. CC building bonds run around $500M (that’s $1B when the interest is added in) in the SF.Bay area (maybe a little less for the smaller ones). These dollars routinely disappear when education advocates complain about how their budgets are “dwindling”.

    If the 90% of those attending are not serious about their education goals, or have yet to develop them, there’s really no reason that these people can’t spin their wheels at home with traditional correspondence courses, or video-enhanced (DVD) training materials, or Internet-based instruction.

    California’s education expenses are about 60B this year. $4B on CCs is a significant percentage for such low return on the investment (in terms of AAs/Certificates/4-Year College Transfers). It’s way past time for comprehensive review of the CC program to determine what cost efficiencies can be introduced to staunch the flow of “red ink” at these places.

  13. Cardinal Fang says:

    It makes sense to talk about a 90% dropout rate only if one assumes that all students who take degree- or transfer-oriented classes intend to get an AA. That is clearly not the case. For one thing, a student doesn’t need an AA to transfer to a four-year college or to apply as a freshman to a four-year college. For another, a student who already has a degree probably doesn’t want another.

  14. Wayne Martin says:

    > It makes sense to talk about a 90% dropout rate
    > only if one assumes that all students who take
    > degree- or transfer-oriented classes intend to
    > get an AA.

    If the CCs aren’t there to provide access to 4-year colleges, or certificates for vocational training, then it’s time to rethink the whole CC idea. In California’s case, 4+B yearly is a lot of money to spend to subsidize people with no educational goals that will result in increasing their economic potential. Over the next 20 years, the CCCs will consume over $100B in operating expenses (and maybe another $30B in capital funds). Halving the system (at least) would free up possibly $50B for other education, or to apply to California’s aging infrastructure.

    > That is clearly not the case. For one thing,
    > a student doesn’t need an AA to transfer
    > to a four-year college or to apply as a
    > freshman to a four-year college.

    This is true. However, what are the percentages of students who accepted by 4-year schools after spending some time at a CC? The PPIC study suggests that the numbers are 15% (or less), as was backed up by CCC data posted earlier.

    > For another, a student who already has a
    > degree probably doesn’t want another.

    That’s a personal choice. Certainly there are people who would rather go to a CC for post-BS course work, but there are many others who chose the CSU/UC night schools as their education source. Anyone thinking about a graduate degree would most likely pick a CSU/UC night school rather than a CCC night school.

    The following UC/CSU and Private schools (in this case Stanford) WEB-sites provide information about their course offering, all of which now have On-line offerings:

    UC Extension:
    http://www.unex.berkeley.edu/

    UC Extension On-line Learning:
    http://www.unex.berkeley.edu/online/

    CSUS Continuing Education:
    http://www.cce.csus.edu/

    CSUS Continuing Education On-line:
    http://www.cce.csus.edu/online/index.htm

    Center For Regional And Continuing Education/Chico:
    http://rce.csuchico.edu/

    Nurses On-line Education:
    http://www.nurseceu.com/

    Stanford Continuing Education (Online Available):
    http://continuingstudies.stanford.edu/

    The idea of building $1000/sq ft for people to “have fun” and not pursue goals that will help to recoup the State’s investment via higher earning capabilities is mind boggling.

    All of this Bond money (these are just come of the larger bonds) just disappears. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers foot the bill for people who seem to achieve very little using the “investment”:

    $694M ($1.38B With Interest):
    http://www.smartvoter.org/2006/11/07/ca/sd/prop/M/

    $870 Million Community College Bond Measure ($1.74B With Interest):
    http://www.smartvoter.org/2006/11/07/ca/sd/prop/N/

    $248 million bond issue in November 1999:
    http://foundation.fhda.edu/stories/storyReader$12
    $490 million bond issue in June, 2006:
    http://www.smartvoter.org/2006/06/06/ca/scl/meas/C/

    Education is not as “free” as some people would have you believe.

  15. Cardinal Fang says:

    Wayne, I get it that you don’t think education should be fun, but what you think a CC’s mission is doesn’t agree with what they think it is. Here is the mission statement from Foothill/De Anza College, snipped a bit:

    “The college’s purpose is to provide educational opportunity for all with innovation and distinction.
    The college’s mission is to promote student learning through lower-division academic instruction, career preparation, and continuous work force development to advance California’s economic growth and global competitiveness.
    Foothill College provides educational opportunity for all who can benefit from the instruction and support services offered.” (my italics)

    Notice what it doesn’t say: “The college’s only mission is to prepare student to either get an AA or transfer to a four-year college.” That’s because, even though you wish that were the only goal, it isn’t.

    I make no apology for going to community college and studying Spanish, a subject, by the way, that is ill-suited for distance learning. Yes, it has been fun; gee, what a tragedy. I used to be monolingual. Now I can speak Spanish. Along the way I’ve met students who are studying Spanish for all sorts of reasons: to transfer, to apply to four-year colleges as freshman, as career development, to learn to read and write their mother tongue or just for fun like me. Unlike you, Wayne, I think bringing all these students together to learn is a tremendous idea.

  16. Wayne Martin says:

    > Spanish, a subject, by the way, that
    > is ill-suited for distance learning.:

    Poooleeazeeee .. the following links are just a mere handful of on-line sources which offer, for fee, or for free, that provide on-line Spanish Language Instruction:

    On-line Spanish Courseware/Support/Resources/Dictionaries:
    http://www.studyspanish.com/tutorial.htm
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/
    http://www.colby.edu/~bknelson/exercises/

    http://eleaston.com/spanish.html
    http://www.spaleon.com/index.php

    http://www.spanishnetcollege.com/
    http://college.hmco.com/languages/spanish/students/

    http://www.ccm.ac.uk/ccm_gateway.asp?NavID=494
    http://www.multilingualbooks.com/online-radio-spanish.html
    http://www.amherst.edu/library/research/academic/spanish.html
    http://ezinearticles.com/?Learn-to-Speak-Spanish-Online&id=342742
    http://isd.ou.edu/collegecoursedetail.cfm?area=Spanish&prfx=SPAN&cid=492&ciid=492
    http://www.cicclapaz.com/spanishonline.html
    http://www.spanishnewyork.com/automatic/verb-conjugation.php

    http://www.spanish4all.com/
    http://apps.carleton.edu/curricular/span/internet_links/

    Notice, many universities and colleges are offering on-line Spanish instruction, not just WEB-based businesses.

    Google To Add Spanish Language Books To Its On-line Archive:
    —-
    http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/annc/books_madrid.html

    Announcement
    September 26, 2006

    University Complutense of Madrid and Google to Make Hundreds of Thousands of Books Available Online

    Browsing the library stacks of the University Complutense of Madrid is like taking a trip through the great moments of Spanish and Latin American literature with Miguel de Cervantes, Quevedo, Calderón, Sor Juana de la Cruz, Garcilaso de la Vega and many more.

    Now, those authors’ great works will be accessible to everyone around the world, as the University Complutense of Madrid becomes the first Spanish-language library to join the Google Books Library Project. Book lovers and researchers from Australia to Argentina, and South Africa to Spain, will be able to find out whether, as Cervantes wrote, “the pen is the tongue of the mind,” or as Calderón claimed, “life is but a dream.”

    Working together, Google and the University Complutense of Madrid will digitise the university’s hundreds of thousands of public domain works, so that anyone, at anytime will be able to view, browse, read, and even download the full texts from the library’s historic and special collections. The library of the Complutense University of Madrid is the largest university library in Spain.

    “Out of copyright books previously only available to people with access to Madrid’s Complutense University Library, or the money to travel, will now be accessible to everyone with an Internet connection, wherever they live,” said Carlos Berzosa, Chancellor of the Complutense University of Madrid. “We are quite literally opening our library to the world. The opportunities for education are phenomenal and we are delighted to be working with Google on this project.”

    In addition, the cooperation with the University Complutense of Madrid will further enrich Book Search’s multilingual collection of public domain works. In addition to Spanish texts, the university’s collection also includes French, German, Latin, Italian, and English books.

    The University Complutense of Madrid is the second European library to join the Library Project, which also includes the Bodleian Library at Oxford, University of California, University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the New York Public Library. Google is also conducting a pilot project with the Library of Congress.

    The Google Books Library Project digitises books from major libraries around the world and makes their collections searchable on Google Book Search. More information can be found at: http://books.google.com.

    Within the year, Spanish learners will be able to gain access to the world’s great Spanish literature, some of which will be downloadable so that people can read them off the NET.

    A couple of “vintage” Spanish language texts, on-line, and free:

    A First “Spanish Reader:
    http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC02286322&id=Me4RAAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage&dq=spanish&as_brr=1

    Spanish Composition:
    http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC04609858&id=DO0RAAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage&dq=spanish&as_brr=1

    A Spanish Grammar:
    http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC21267097&id=fpywXIooQiwC&printsec=titlepage&dq=spanish&as_brr=1

    A Practical Course in Spanish:
    http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC13418401&id=necRAAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage&dq=spanish&as_brr=1

    Spanish On-line Books:
    http://uk.agapea.com/

    UVA On-line e-Texts:
    http://www.lib.virginia.edu/wess/etexts.html

    UTexas On-line e-Texts:
    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/subject/iberian/fulltextspa.html

    UCSB (Other Languages Than English):
    http://vos.ucsb.edu/browse.asp?id=2719

    e-Texts in Spanish Literature:
    http://www.library.jhu.edu/researchhelp/spanish/etexts.html


    Instant Messenger can be used to “text” people to chat:

    AOL Instant Messenger/Spanish Version:
    http://www.aim.com/international/main.adp

    Spanish Via Instant Messenger:
    http://www.spanishtutoronline.com/

    YAHOO Instant Messenger With Voice:
    http://messenger.yahoo.com/

    With Yahoo IM/Voice, calls can be made world-wide for free (PC-to-PC). People can “text” and converse verbally with this tool, which is free. It probably wouldn’t be a big deal to find someone in Spain, or Mexico, or the Philippines as a “language buddy” to practice in real time. Tutors in foreign countries could be found to provide at-home critique an review.

    All of this might not be “fun”, but I suspect that it would be a lot cheaper than the cost to the taxpayers of CC courses.

    Spanish Language Newspapers and Magazines:
    http://libraries.mit.edu/guides/types/flnews/spanish.html

    Alta Vista/Babelfish On-line Translator (Spanish-to-English/English-to-Spanish)
    http://babelfish.altavista.com/

    Anyone who truly believes that any language can’t be taught on-line has no understanding of the state of the WEB, the excellent graphics on LapTops and PCs, and the power of intelligent courseware design.

  17. Wayne Martin says:
  18. Perhaps more community colleges should consider creating house systems to increase student participation and persistence:

    http://collegiateway.org/news/2006-community-college-house-system