Graduation Rates for CUNY's community colleges reach an all time low
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 12:12
According to a recent study by The Center for an Urban Future, there is a disturbing trend among the CUNY Community Colleges.
Only 28 percent of students graduate with a degree over six years. This study reveals the lack of proper preparation for students entering community college.
The study was done on the CUNY community college system, as it is the largest system of urban community colleges in the United States.
The six community colleges – Kingsborough, Borough of Manhattan, Queensborough, Laguardia, and Bronx – serve more than 91,000 students. Of that 91,000, 82,000 are pursuing an associate degree or are trying to transfer to a senior college.
According to the study, of the 10,185 students that started at the community colleges in 2004, 63 percent dropped out within six years, nine percent were still enrolled, and 28 percent received a degree.
Of that 28 percent, 20 percent came away with an associate's degree with the final eight percent receiving a bachelor's degree.
Surprisingly enough, CUNY's community colleges graduated more students than three of the four largest cities in America. None of the five largest cities – Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago – have a four-year graduation rate higher than 20 percent.
The nationwide percentage for graduation over six years, in fact, is lower than CUNY's community colleges, at 26 percent.
It reflects a startling nationwide trend of community colleges falling short of their goal to be a path to the middle class for low-income people.
CUNY's community colleges have enrolled 43 percent more students than they did in the last decade. Much of this increase has come in the last few years, signaling that a college degree is necessary for access to decent-paying jobs.
The low graduation rate is attributed to many factors, as many students entering these colleges have many hurdles.
Four out of five students entering a community college have to take at least one remedial class.
Three in 10 students are working more than 20 hours a week outside of school to support themselves.
Community colleges do not have comparable funding to senior colleges; community colleges receive half the funding per student compared to four-year colleges, and state funding of CUNY's community colleges has dropped by over a quarter in the past decade.
The lack in resources and funding translates to very little guidance for students trying to graduate.
"A lot of students don't know what they want and we don't have a good way of helping them figuring it out," Thomas Bailey, director of Community College Research Center at Teachers' College said.
The students who drop out of college not only represent a huge loss in economic potential, but also are a huge cost on taxpayer dollars.
The study reported that the value of raising graduation rates by 10 percent would bring in $71 million in income, taxes, economic activity, and public investment within the first year.
Over 10 years it increases to $689 million and over 30 years it increases to $2.1 billion. As of now, each community college dropout costs about $17,783.
Colleges receive $8,719 in operating aid for each dropout, each student received approximately $6,245 in Pell grants before dropping out, and they also received $2,819 in TAP funds before dropping out.
In order to combat this, CUNY has made an effort to boost graduation rates. Michael Arena, spokesman for CUNY, noted in a response to the study that a major impediment was that the majority of students "require remediation in reading, writing or mathematics."
Arena stated that CUNY wishes to "replicate and scale up CUNY's proven strategies to improve community college graduation rates."
CUNY is also opening a new hybrid high school and community college in Brooklyn called Pathways in Technology Early College High School to help provide the algebra and literacy foundation missing in many of the students currently enrolled at community colleges.
CUNY is also planning on opening its first community college in decades, New Community College near Bryant Park that aims to fill in the advisement hole at other community colleges by giving each student a mentor.
"It is ridiculous that less than one third of the community college population actually graduates and it does not seem like the school is helping to raise those numbers. They have policies that delay the graduation process rather than assisting students," said Andre Stradone, a student from Bronx Community College.