Affordability and Transfer Critical to Increase Bachelor’s Degree Completion

National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

The importance of the U.S. having more college graduates and the role that community colleges must play in producing such an increase are addressed in this new report. It places particular emphasis on states with rapidly growing young populations where ethnic groups and low-income students with low rates of college participation and completion are most highly concentrated.

The report states that too many college students will not make it to get their degree because of rising tuition costs and ineffective transfer policies.

The students at the highest risk levels are those who begin their college education at a two-year institution, often because of financial necessity. Students from underrepresented racial groups are more likely to enroll in community colleges as their first postsecondary institution. On a national level, 50 percent of Hispanics start at community college. This rate is 31 percent for African-Americans and 28 percent for Caucasians.

 The report states that this problem is likely to get worse in coming years because of the projected increase of high school graduates in states such as Arizona, Texas, and California, where more than half of post-secondary education students currently are enrolled in two-year higher education institutions.

Over the last 20 years, tuition at public two-year colleges has increased far more rapidly than the inflation rate, according to the report. But at the same time, family incomes, when adjusted for inflation, have actually declined over that same time period.

This combination puts extreme pressure on states to make up the difference in financial Aid, but the report notes that states’ efforts have been inadequate. The remaining shortfall falls back on students who then need to work more Job hours to be able to afford college and means they are forced to take fewer classes – both factors make them less likely to complete any kind of college degree.

However, the report mentions states that are attempting to solve this problem through various legislative policies.

For instance, Florida, New Jersey, Washington and Rhode Island offer transfer associate’s degrees. Ohio and Texas have standard general education curricula for transfer. In addition, recent legislation in California will create a transfer degree and guaranteed junior status to those transferring between the community college system and the state college system in California.

For the free eight-page report click here


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