When Community College Works

With many students and families feeling pressured by economic factors to choose cheaper schools, community colleges look more attractive for many families, or at least that’s what the community colleges are hoping. The pitch goes like this: students go to community colleges for a year or two, accumulate the necessary credits, then transfer to four-year schools and earn their bachelors degrees, at a fraction of the cost. The trouble is that it doesn’t usually work that way. According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Every year, thousands of students enroll at community colleges with the intent of transferring to a four-year institution. But many of them languish in developmental-education classes and eventually drop out. The situation is especially acute among minorities and low-income students.

A report issued by Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, ”Bridging the Gaps to Success: Promising Practices for Promoting Transfer Among Low-Income and First-Generation Students” (pdf) looked at six successful Texas community colleges to figure out what helped students transfer successfully. The best schools, it turns out, were those that had arrangements with four-year schools to make credit-transfer easy. It’s apparently not enough to just have community colleges; in order for community colleges to be really effective, it helps a lot if they have agreements to work with traditional schools.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer