A Solution Needs Solution-Level Money

The Obama administration loves to talk up community colleges. They are the solution to making the United States the leader in the number of college graduates! As President Obama said,

Community colleges aren’t just the key to the future of their students. They’re also one of the keys to the future of our country. We are in a global competition to lead in the growth industries of the 21st century. And that leadership depends on a well-educated, highly skilled workforce.

Um, not so fast, say leaders of actual community colleges. According to an article by Joanne Jacobs in the Hechinger Institute’s Community College Spotlight:

Budget cuts of 2 percent are expected for community colleges in 22 states; 35 states project an 9 percent rise in enrollment. Tuition is likely to go up, creating access problems…. One third of respondents [to a recent survey of community colleges] said their community colleges don’t have the capacity to educate the current numbers of high-school graduates nor future graduates.

Colleges won’t be able to meet the president’s college-completion goal, said Janice Friedel, co-author of the study, in a conference call. “How can you increase graduation rates without more capacity?”

In 2009 American community colleges reported more surprise midyear budget cuts than any other state-supported institutions. Only 20 of survey respondents indicated that states were fully funding their community colleges, according to the states’ own funding formulas.

So are community colleges “the solution”? Well only if they get the resources to be the solution.

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