Problems with Community Colleges

Some of the fault is the student’s fault but not all.

With scant advising, many community college students spend time and money on courses that won’t transfer or that they don’t need. Though most intend to move on to get bachelor’s degrees, only a small fraction succeed; fewer than half earn any kind of credential. Even if they do, many employers don’t believe they’re ready for the workforce.

And thus.
Yet consumers are abandoning them in droves. The number of students at community colleges has fallen 37% since 2010, or by nearly 2.6 million, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

While four out of five students who begin at a community college say they plan to go on to get a bachelor’s degree, only about one in six of them actually manages to do it. That’s down by nearly 15% since 2020, according to the clearinghouse.

Two-year community colleges have the worst completion rates of any kind of university or college.

Time to find solutions.

In Michigan, enrollment at all colleges has been falling. Community Colleges have taken a larger hit than 4 year colleges, but both are down. The local news here whined, at length, about one 4 year college that has had a steep drop in enrollment, some 43% drop since 2012. I looked at all the state universities. The two best, Michigan State and University of Michigan, have increased enrollment, but all the others, individually, have seen enrollment fall.

Why? Soaring costs as the state cut funding to pay for tax cuts for the “JCs”? Certain Shiny factions denigrating education? Whatever the cause, Shiny-land is becoming more ignorant.

I would guess cost is a significant part of it. I went back and visited my college. I had a roommate in the same square footage in the same dormitory that now houses one person. The student union, which was open from 6p-11p is now open 6a to 12p, and has a short order grill for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The “new” dorms, unlike the ones we had, are architecturally lovely, ours was a brick building with windows, and the bathrooms were urinals, toilets, and gang showers. Now every little dumpling has their own a private bathroom space.

And I haven’t started on the classrooms and the technology that’s in use. I remember the days of the overhead projector and wax pencil.

Now I’m not saying “Oh, look what we had to go through”, but colleges found one of the ways - other than, you know, academics - to attract the customers was with better and higher accoutrements, more landscaping, and a fresh coat of paint on all the buildings. That’s not the kids’ fault, that’s mommy & daddy deciding to pay for the trappings instead of the teaching. Meanwhile university professors’ pay has increased, but not outrageously, grad students teaching assistants still starve, and the really big bucks go to the football coach first, and maybe the President of the school second.

The market is SLOWLY working to correct this, but it will never all shake out.

Meanwhile, tons of colleges are eliminating liberal arts courses entirely, colleges have become vo-tech training grounds for careers instead of for education and thinking.


The dorms need to compete with off-campus housing. At one time, 50 years ago, Whatsa Matta U required freshman and sophomores to live on campus. Colleges aren’t required to protect the virtue of the under 21 anymore. A flock of dorms on that campus have been torn down or repurposed, with little replacement. The newest, when I was there, were “Goldsworth Valley”, which had two double occupancy rooms sharing a bathroom. There were two big apartment complexes west of campus that catered to students usually two double occupancy bedrooms with in-unit kitchen and bath, along with one street that was lined with frats, and the “student ghetto” of old houses, to the east of campus, all within walking distance of campus.

Funny you should mention how poorly paid grad assistants are.

Many community colleges are attractive to those who lack the resources to go away to college. Many live at home and work part time or go to school part time. You are not surprised that those students fail to finish. Also Covid and doubts about the value of college degrees are a factor.

Some community colleges offer associate degrees in practical aspects like cooking and baking. Those students may well get job offers before they finish.