Century Foundation report: Community colleges risk being ‘separate and unequal’ part of education institutions

28 May

The Century Foundation has completed a long-term study of community colleges and one of the findings is the United States is developing a two-tier education system which is unequal.

Tamar Levin of the New York Times reported on the trend of community colleges offering four year degrees in the 2009 article, Community Colleges Challenge Hierarchy With 4-Year Degrees More people are switching careers several times during their working career and that means that they must be retrained. Many students cannot afford a traditional four year college either in terms of cost or time spent away from home. Community colleges have always offered these students educational opportunity. See, Robert Franco’s The Civic Role of Community Colleges: Preparing Students for the Work of Democracy

Community colleges were created to democratize both American higher education and the students who came through their open doors (Brint and Karabel 1989; Gleazer 1994). However, some observers have argued that community colleges have become overly focused on diverting students into low- and mid-level occupations and that they have not played a major role in transforming perpetuated structures of inequality. With a rapid growth trajectory, America’s 1,166 community colleges now serve increasingly diverse populations. Community college leaders need to recommit to three essential missions: developing strong transfer programs that provide students with equal educational opportunities; preparing students for twenty-first century careers; and preparing students for the work of democracy in the world’s dominant democracy. Service-learning is the leading pedagogy that community colleges can employ to achieve these missions and truly become civically engaged campuses in the communities they serve.

Daniel de Vise has a great article in the Washington Post, 25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College which reports online information from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Going to a community college is one way to reduce the cost of college.

Goldie Blumenstyk writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, 2-Year Colleges Are at Risk of ‘Separate and Unequal’ Future, Report Says:

Community colleges “are in great danger of becoming indelibly separate and unequal institutions in the higher-education landscape,” a Century Foundation task force warns in a report being released here on Thursday. To deal with what it calls “the increasing economic and racial isolation of students” at community colleges, the group also calls for major changes in how two-year colleges are financed and operated.

Among its recommendations, the group urges states and the federal government to provide additional funds to two-year colleges that serve the neediest students, much in the way the federal Title I program works for elementary and secondary schools. In states where constitutional guarantees of education might extend to higher education, the report suggests that advocates even consider filing lawsuits to require such “adequate funding” of community colleges.

To “bring greater clarity to all types of public support for higher education,” the report also asks the U.S. Departments of Education and of the Treasury to jointly study how tax exemptions for donations to colleges and for institutions’ endowment earnings indirectly subsidize colleges—an effort that would highlight how such policies disproportionately benefit wealthier four-year institutions. http://chronicle.com/article/2-Year-Colleges-Are-at-Risk-of/139445/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Here is information from the Century Foundation:

Bridging the Higher Education Divide

May 23, 2013 COMMENTARY BY: The Century Foundation

Task Force: Community Colleges on Path to “Separate and Unequal”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Century Foundation today released the final report of a task force convened in February 2012 to study the country’s community colleges and make recommendation for their sustainability and improvement. The report was released at an event featuring task force co-chairs Eduardo Padrón (president of Miami-Dade College in Florida) and Anthony Marx (former president of Amherst College in Massachusetts and president of the New York Public Library), as well as the U.S. undersecretary of education, Martha Kanter.


For Release

Contact: Derek Newton

May 23, 2013

212 452 7725



The Century Foundation Releases Final Report of Community College Task Force


The Century Foundation (www.TCF.org) today released the final report of a task force convened in February 2012 to study the country’s community colleges and make recommendation for their sustainability and improvement. The report was released at an event featuring task force co chairs Eduardo Padrón (president of Miami Dade College in Florida) and Anthony Marx (former president of Amherst College in Massachusetts and president of the New York Public Library), as well as the U.S. undersecretary of education, Martha Kanter.

We were fortunate to have some of the brightest and most experienced thinkers and practitioners in higher education on the task force,” said Century Foundation senior fellow Richard D. Kahlenberg, executive director of the group , which was funded by the Ford Foundation. ” While a lot of great work is already being done on community colleges, what distinguishes this group is its commitment to addressing growing economic and racial stratification in higher education that makes the work of two year institutions so difficult.”

Among the report’s findings is a high noncompletion rate among community college students:

Eighty one percent of students entering community college for the first time saying they eventually want to transfer and earn at least a bachelor’s degree but just 12 percent do so within six years.

Among low income students with “high” qualifications for college (those who have completed “at least Trigonometry”), 69 percent of students who began in a four year institution earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with just 19 percent of those who started in a community college.

The report also highlights the comparative lack of investment in community colleges, even though they enroll, educate, and train a larger and more diverse population than any other segment of higher education:

More than 60 percent of community college students receive some developmental/remedial education, at an estimated cost of $2 billion per year. While wealthy students outnumber poor students at the most selective four year colleges by 14:1, community colleges educate twice as many low income students as high income students.

Between 1999 and 2009, community college funding increased just one dollar per student, while per student funding at private research universities jumped almost $14,000.

We are proud of our mission and success as an open door to educational achievement and workforce success,” said task force co chair Padrón. “But community colleges lack adequate resources. They will continue to play an enormous role in our country, and policy makers need to step up to help.” In addition to confronting the challenges faced by community colleges, the task force commissioned three original academic research papers and made specific policy recommendations. Those eight recommendations – to improve funding of community colleges and reduce racial and economic stratification between two and four year institutions –are:

Adopting a federal “adequacy based” funding formula in higher education similar to federal and state programs for K–12 schools that will make extra resources available to schools and populations with the highest poverty and remediation needs, and that otherwise need the most assistance.

Establishing greater transparency in public financial subsidies to higher education.

Encouraging growth in redesigned institutions that facilitate connections between community and four year colleges.

Taking concrete steps to improve community college transfers to four year institutions

Encouraging innovations such as Honors Programs to build more inclusive and diverse student populations in community colleges.

Promoting innovations in early college programs that enhance community college diversity.

Prioritizing funding for new programs at economically and racially isolated community colleges.

Incentivizing four year institutions to engage in affirmative action for low wealth students.

It’s not just about funding. Four year colleges have a great role to play here —especially the highly selective ones,” said Marx. “When we created transfer positions at Amherst for community college graduates, we learned that those who came from two year schools had higher GPA and completion rates than our overall student body.”

The complete task force report and background research papers are here:

http://tcf.org/bookstore/detail/bridgingthe higher education divide

Twenty two members served on the task force. A complete list is here:


Founded in 1919, The Century Foundation has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C., and is one of America’s oldest think tanks

More information about The Century Foundation is here:


Jennifer Gonzalez reports in the Education Week article, Multiyear Study of Community-College Practices Asks: What Helps Students Graduate?

The first of three reports, “A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success” was released last week. It draws attention to 13 strategies for increasing retention and graduation rates, including fast-tracking remedial education, providing students with experiential learning, and requiring students to attend orientation.

The strategies specified in the report are not new. In fact, many of them can be found at two-year colleges right now. But how well those strategies are working to help students stay in college and graduate is another matter. The report found peculiarities among responses on similar topics, suggesting a disconnect between institutions and students, while also raising questions about how committed institutions are to their own policies and programs.

For example, 74 percent of students said they were required to take academic-placement tests, but only 28 percent said they used materials or resources provided by the college to prepare for those tests. While 44 percent of participating colleges report offering some sort of test preparation, only 13 percent make test preparation mandatory, the report said.

Also, 42 percent of part-time students and 19 percent of full-time students work more than 30 hours per week. More than half care for dependents. But only 26 percent of entering students reported that a college staff member counseled them about how many courses to take while balancing commitments outside of class.

Colleges need to figure out a way to better align their programs and policies with the needs and realities of their students, Ms. McClenney says. The report found a sizable gap between the percentage of students who plan to graduate and those who actually do, suggesting that what colleges think works may not be helping retain and graduate students. In fact, fewer than half (45 percent) of entering community-college students actually graduate with either a certificate or associate degree within six years after enrolling at an institution, according to the report….

Requiring Success

This is the first time that the research organization has analyzed data from four surveys and combined the results into a multiyear project. The responses came from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, the Survey of Entering Student Engagement, the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, and the newly created Community College Institutional Survey….

A major stumbling block for community-college students is remedial education. Many students languish in those reading, writing, or math classes and eventually drop out, curtailing their transfer or graduation plans. The problem is especially acute among minorities and low-income students.

But the report says that among institutions that have accelerated or fast-tracked remedial courses, only 13 percent require students to enroll in those courses. That’s a missed opportunity, because earlier research suggests that students who take those intensive classes perform equally as well as, or better than, students in traditional remedial education.

The report found similar results regarding orientation services, which include providing students with information on navigating the library and finding support services such as academic and mental-health counseling. Previous research shows that participation in orientation leads to greater use of support services and improved retention of at-risk students, the report says. However, among colleges that offer orientation programs, only 38 percent report that they require it for all first-time students. http://chronicle.com/article/Community-College-Study-Asks-/130606/

Ashley Marchand writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about strategies which can help community college students succeed.

In 6 Strategies Can Help Entering Community-College Students Succeed, Marchand reports:

The six benchmarks listed in the report offer staff members and administrators ideas about how to help more students stay in college and graduate or transfer. They are fostering “college readiness” programs for high-school students, connecting early with students, encouraging faculty and staff members to have high expectations for students, providing a clear academic path, engaging students in the learning process, and maintaining an academic and social-support network. http://chronicle.com/article/6-Strategies-Can-Help-Entering/64871/

In the article, Community Colleges Address Financial Barriers to Success For Low-income Students which was published in the Sacramento Bee:

Of the close to 8 million credit students annually attending community colleges, 46% currently receive some form of financial aid (state, federal, or institutional). The additional benefits the students might access through BACC include a range of federal programs, such as those that provide health insurance, food, and child care. Such support services are especially critical for community college students, many of whom juggle work, studies, and family responsibilities. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/08/4248177/community-colleges-address-financial.html

Given the numbers of students attending community college and the population demographic, more must be done to help this students graduate.


What the ACT college readiness assessment means                                            https://drwilda.com/2012/08/25/what-the-act-college-readiness-assessment-means/

Study: What skills are needed for ’21st-century learning?’                                      https://drwilda.com/2012/07/11/study-what-skills-are-needed-for-21st-century-learning/

ACT to assess college readiness for 3rd-10th Grades                                        https://drwilda.com/2012/07/04/act-to-assess-college-readiness-for-3rd-10th-grades/

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