4 Random Facts You Didn’t Know About Community College

Ever since their inception, community colleges have been viewed as the step children of higher education. Sure, anyone with a brain knows the important role that they play in America. However, many people can’t see past their perceived lack of “prestige” or “swagger” if you will. Yet without much acclaim or fanfare, they continue to be the backbone of America’s higher education system.

Here are four facts you might not have known that will change your perception of these schools.

  1. Obama proposed free community college tuition in his State of the Union address this year.

President Obama laid out proposals to revamp the tax code by raising taxes and fees on the wealthiest Americans and largest financial institutes to pay for free tuition for two years of community college.

Obama’s plan would give many people in America the opportunity to receive post-secondary education– something that many people in our country have always wanted, but could never afford.  The President points out that more people will have the ability to obtain a degree, and we will also see a more competitive nation with a stronger middle-class economy.

In his proposal for free tuition, Obama highlights that students would need to maintain a 2.5 GPA, attend at least half time and be on track to graduate on time. The proposal would not be exclusive to recent high school graduates.

The President estimates the cost of the free tuition program at $6 billion a year.

  1. About 7 million students enroll in community colleges—over half of all undergraduates at public colleges and universities in the U.S.

According to Dr. Alicia Dowd, associate professor of Higher Education at the University of Southern California, about 7 million students are enrolled in community colleges. As she says, “[I]t’s not an overstatement to say that community colleges are an integral part of the national narrative in the United States about the ‘American Dream.’ Sandwiched between high school and four-year colleges and universities, they are an important rung in the ladder of our very stratified society and educational system.”

Community colleges are important to many students because of the increased opportunities for success provided by conveniences such as price, flexibility for those with busy work schedules, proximity, and accessibility for non-traditional students.

  1. There are more than 1000 students for every counselor at community colleges.

Budget problems are a real concern at community colleges, according to Dr. Dowd. There are more than 1000 students for every counselor, and in places such as California, 1700 students for every counselor. Figuring out the requirements for a degree, setting up a transfer to another school, or even just going for career advice becomes much more difficult.

Some other practical implications of budget concerns: students are often turned away from classes they need to take because there are not enough seats, and classrooms are overcrowded. These problems all have real-life effects on the quality of a student’s education, and can even affect the timing of completing a degree program.

  1. Over 1/3 of community college students in the U.S. come from California, Texas, Florida, and New York.

Dr. Dowd says that California contains over 20% of all community college students today. California, Texas, Florida, and New York combined enroll over 1/3 of community college students.

All of these states happen to have large Latino populations, and community colleges have made efforts to serve their Hispanic students. However, the diversity of the faculty does not quite match that of the student population. As Dr. Dowd says, “But the number of Latino faculty is still very small and colleges haven’t been intentional about developing their Hispanic serving identity, for example through curriculum development.”

Many Americans wish they could pursue their dream of college education. Community colleges are the key to an affordable one, especially when paired with 4-year college initiatives. Let’s remember them as an option and support initiatives that strengthen them.

Articles used:


Choose your Reaction!