Editor's Note (The View From Here)
- By Deborah P. Moore
- May 1st, 2016
I just read a surprising article published in
U.S. News & World Report headlined, “Graduates
of 4-Year Universities Flock to Community
Colleges for Job Skills. As many as 1 in 5 community
college students already have bachelor’s
degrees.” According to the American Association
of Community Colleges (AACC), one out
of every 14 people who attend community has
already earned a bachelor’s degree, and in some colleges the number
is one out of five.
Community colleges were always thought of as a stepping stone,
preparing students for transfer to four-year institutions — not the
other way around. They had open-access admissions policies, comprehensive
educational programs, were community-based and cost-effective.
In the latest College Board report average published tuition
and fee prices in 2015-16 for in-district students at public two-year
institutions averaged $3,430, compared to $9,410 for in-state students
at public four-year institutions.
While lower tuition and costs may be attracting new students to
community colleges, it is workforce development and skills training
that are attracting students already holding bachelor’s degrees. While
unemployment soared during the Great Recession, reaching 9.9 percent
in March of 2010, the national unemployment rate has declined
to 5.0 percent in March of 2016. Many of those who were unemployed
are still under-employed. In 2016 wages are predicted to increase 2.5
percent when adjusted for inflation, but after years of salary cuts and
no cost-of-living increases employees are leaving their current jobs
and looking for greener pastures.
Many former students are taking courses at their local community
college in an effort to make themselves more marketable. Others, especially
in technology-related professions, are returning to keep their
certifications current or upgrade their skills, and it is paying off.
In February 2014 the AACC and Economic Modeling Specialists
International (EMSI) released a report, “Where Value Meets Values:
The Economic Impact of Community Colleges.” The report shows
that community colleges are a boon to the American economy at
large as well as to individual students. For every one dollar a student
spends on his or her community college education, he or she sees an
ROI of $3.80. If you ask me, that is a pretty good investment!
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.