Phi Beta Cons

Is Community College a Good Investment?

It’s conventional wisdom to say that going to community college, and then transferring to a four-year school, is a great way to save money on a college degree. It makes college more accessible. In keeping with this line of thinking, federal and state governments pour billions into community colleges. But do community colleges produce as sound a return on investment for society as they sometimes do for individuals?

Not if students drop out.

A new study sheds light on the problem:

The nonprofit American Institutes for Research found that from 2004 to 2009, federal, state and local governments spent nearly $4 billion on full-time community college students who dropped out after their first year…

The report highlights a nationwide trend of increasing community college enrollment and spending but declining completion rates at the same time that state funding for higher education has dropped…

The report found that about a fifth of full-time U.S. community college students in the period studied did not return for their second year. In 2009, the most recent year for which data were available, about $1 billion was spent on students who dropped out, up 35% from 2004. Eight states spent more than $25 million in 2009 on students who ultimately dropped out, with California topping the list at $100 million.

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