Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why Do Kids Go to Community Colleges?

By Richard Vedder

In California, Washington and Wyoming, nearly half the students attending institutions of higher education go to community colleges. By contrast, in Vermont, less than one postsecondary student in ten is enrolled in two year institutions? Why the difference?

Scott Jaschik reports on this in today's INSIDE HIGHER ED. I look at the top 10 community college-intensive states, and I see that the median tuition level as a percent of median family income is 2.5 percent. Looking at the lowest 10 states in terms of community college involvement, I see the median tuition level equals about 3.8 percent of median family income. States with lower participation charge higher tuition. Question: how important are tuition fees in determining enrollments?

There are regional patterns. Five of the six New England states are in the bottom 15 states in the proportion of postsecondary students in community colleges. By contrast, the West is overrepresented among the states with the highest community college participation, including all important California.

I have been pushing community colleges on cost grounds. But they have high attrition rates. And, I notice that some states with very high college attainment rates (percent of adults with college degrees) --Massachusetts, Colorado, New Hampshire --have low community college enrollments. An interesting question: do states with low community college participation have lower or higher attrition rates amongst their community college population?

One of my Whiz Kids, Bob Villwock, is a product of a community college. I am having him look into the question above, among others.

1 comment:

Ruthie said...

Could it possibly be (higher community college enrollment) that California has community colleges widely available throughout the state, which makes attending them even more "cost effective" since kids can live at or closer to home while completing some of their GE requirements? What would be an interesting statistic would be to compare the attrition rate of those who started off at a community college and then transferred to a 4 year vs. the attrition rate of those who went directly to a 4 year college or university.