Community Colleges Feel Budget, Student Strains

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A rise in demand and declining school budgets are straining community college systems across the U.S., according to a new survey from the Pearson Foundation.

The nonprofit research organization found that one in six community college students was at immediate risk of discontinuing their studies within the first few weeks of starting school.

The reasons that students cited for dropping out mainly involved struggles with coursework or a difficulty in balancing continued study with family and work obligations. However, the study also found that a rise in demand for classes and a fall in supply due to state budget cuts were also affecting the climate within community colleges.

Thirty-two percent of students said they were unable to enroll in a class of their choice because the roster was already full. Sixty-one percent said they had, at one point in time, dropped a course due to a problem with the professor or the course work itself.

Moreover, the study found that students experiencing difficulties at community colleges were either unwilling or unable to get the help they needed to stay in school.

The vast majority (74%) of those who did drop out did not discuss their intentions with instructors or advisers, while nearly 20% of students who have considered dropping out and were struggling reported being unable to get the guidance they needed.

“The survey findings underscore a serious threat to student access that exists,” Walter G. Bumphus, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, said in a press release. “Community colleges need to increase the level of early intervention to help students overcome internal and external challenges, and colleges need greater support to be able to do that effectively.”

The survey was conducted online by polling agency Harris Interactive between Sep. 27 and Nov. 4. Researchers interviewed 1,434 U.S. residents between 18 and 59 who were enrolled in a U.S. community college and pursuing at least one course for college credit at any point between Aug. 1 and the time the survey was taken.

The survey was commissioned by the Pearson Foundation to better understand the keys to success for community college students.

“This survey gives voice to the student population at the center of this effort, and helps us all to better understand their needs, and their frame of mind, as they begin their college careers,” Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation, said in a press release.

You can find a complete breakdown of the findings on the Pearson Foundation’s website.

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