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.

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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