Community Colleges Step Up

The recession has brought many more traditional-aged college students to community colleges. While this trend has long been a rumor in the press, a Washington Post article by Michelle Davis reveals that:

As the economy continues to falter, job losses rack up and families’ savings dwindle, more students who saw themselves going directly from high school to a four-year institution are instead carving a path to their local community college. The image of the older student returning to community college to take a few classes or brush up on skills — while still a significant portion of the student body — is now morphing into that of a younger student who wants more than just a place to take a night course. Nationally, about 46 percent of students on community college campuses are younger than 21, according to a 2007 report from the American Association of Community Colleges, up from 42.5 percent in 2003.

The attraction for parents is the price. A full semester at an American community college costs an average $2,554, according to the article. Another attraction is that in theory students who perform well at community colleges have the ability to transfer to a prestigious four-year school.

The article focuses mostly on community colleges in the DC-area, like Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and Montgomery College. These are both schools with a long history of helping students get into four-year schools. Community colleges across the county are not nearly as good with transfers. Community colleges are still relatively unattractive for recent high school graduates; nationally, the average community college student is 28 years old.

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