Community colleges in the United States are primarily two-year public institutions providing higher education and lower-level tertiary education. Community colleges may also be referred to as junior colleges, technical colleges, two-year colleges, and city colleges.
Community colleges can be an alternative to four-year universities for students who wish to complete a vocational or technical certificate. After completion of an Associates Degree, students may continue on to four-year universities and go on to earn a Bachelors Degree.
Approximately 7.4 million undergraduate students are enrolled at community colleges in the United States per year. An additional 5 million non-credit students are also enrolled in these colleges. (Source: AACC). These students face different challenges and come from a wide variety of circumstances and demographics. Below we present 10 facts about community college students to increase awareness of this group.
- The average age of a community college student is 28. Compare this to four-year universities, where 79% of the undergraduate population is between 18-24 years of age.
- 12% of community college students have some kind of disability. This number refers to the students who have registered with the office of disabilities. The actual number may be much higher, and indicates a need to ensure an accessible learning environment for all students.
- 72% of community college students apply for financial aid. Community college is typically significantly less expensive than a four-year university. However, the majority of students are in need of some sort of financial assistance to complete their education.
- 17% of community college students are single parents. Being a parent comes with its own special set of challenges. Being a single parent while simultaneously enrolled in school is extremely challenging, and many single parents do not complete any sort of certification at community college.
- 22% of community college students work full-time in addition to full-time studies. A full-time work week in the United States is 40 hours a week. Add tot his work week a full load of courses, and the student is extremely busy. Working full-time may also present obstacles to completion of a certificate at the community college.
- 41% of community college students are part-time students who work full-time. As a part-time student, this group of students is more likely to fail to complete courses due to other committments that take priority over school (e.g. financial obligations).
- 70% of incoming community college students have to take at least one remedial class. These classes are mainly reading, writing, and mathematics courses. These remedial classes do not provide the student with any credit towards their certificate upon completion, and may be required before the student can even begin taking courses for credit towards a certificate.
- Of these 70% required to take remedial classes, 40% will drop out the first year. That means that during their first year, 28% of all community college students will drop out.
- For a student who needs to take a remedial class, the odds of ever finishing community college with any sort of certification are 6/100. That’s very low. Making sure students complete (and learn from) remedial classes, and do not drop out during the first year, is crucial for finishing community college.
- Upon entering community college, 81% of students indicate wanting to transfer to a four-year university after completion of an associates degree. Only 25% of incoming students will transfer within 5 years.
Community college students make up 46% of the undergraduate population in the United States. This is a huge group of students that face different challenges than the student entering a four-year university directly after high school. Incoming students into community college may have done poorly in high school and are returning to school to further their education. Many of these students are first-generation college students.
In order to improve rates of completion of community college, it is necessary to start at the beginning: remedial classes. If 70% of community college students are enrolled in a remedial class, chances are these students have great difficulty with higher-level course material. Ensuring that course material is accessible can be achieved in a variety of ways, including adding text-to-speech technology so that students can listen while simultaneously reading (bimodal content presentation). Bimodal content presentation has been shown to increase reading comprehension, as well as increase motivation among students.
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[Sources: American Association of Community Colleges, Querium, Columbia University]