North Dakota’s Remarkably Successful Community Colleges

One of the odd secrets about American community colleges is that their completion rates are often quite low. The national graduation rate for students attending community colleges is only about 25 percent.

Apparently students attending community colleges in North Dakota are doing a little better. According to an article by Sara Kincaid in the Bismark Tribune:

North Dakota community colleges lead the nation in students who earn a degree, according to a recent report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

About three-fourths of students who start school at a community college end up with a two-year or four-year degree, or both, according to “Affordability and Transfer: Critical to Increasing Baccalaureate Degree Completion” released Thursday. The State Board of Higher Education started some initiatives in the mid-90s that might have contributed to the high rate of degree completion.

Unlike the situation in many states, in North Dakota the community college system is part of a general higher education pipeline that makes transfers relatively easy and graduation common. North Dakota has general education requirements such that classes taken at any community colleges count toward a degree at any of the state universities.

The truth about the success rate at North Dakota’s community colleges might be more complicated but this certainly looks promising. The state seems to be doing something right.

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