The (Rare) Community College Graduate

Now that policymakers have started to understand the importance of college completion, it’s perhaps time to look beyond individual colleges. It turns out that some types of colleges are much more effective than others.

According to an article by Joseph de Avila in the Wall Street Journal, a recent report indicates that most students in New York City community colleges never graduate:

About 51 percent of the city’s community college students leave school before earning an associates or bachelor’s degree within six years of enrollment, the report said. Another 12 percent transfer out of the community college system, but there are no data on how many finish school.

Only about a quarter of community college students, nationally, ever either an associate or a bachelor’s degree.

A CUNY spokesman said in a statement that the system had made efforts to boost graduation rates. But he noted that “almost four out of every five freshman who arrive at its community colleges with a high school degree require remediation in reading, writing or mathematics.”

The problem with this line of thinking is that, while technically accurate, it’s sort of beside the point. Colleges often protest that their graduation rates are so low because the students are so unprepared for college-level work.

But at many community colleges, those are the students to educate. The reason these students attend community college is that they aren’t prepared for college. Those are the students community colleges exist to serve.

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