Billions in Student Aid ‘Wasted’

A new report claiming $4 billion in taxpayer funds directed to community college students has been “wasted” because many students dropped out before attaining a credential is misleading, according to community college advocates.

The report released Thursday by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) looked at first-time, full-time community college students in a degree or certificate program from 2004-05 to 2008-09 who did not return for a second year. Those students received $3 billion in state and local tuition aid, $240 million in state grants and $660 million in federal grants, it said.

The costs have increased every year, the report found. The total amount of taxpayer money “wasted” on community college dropouts rose from $660 million in 2004-05 to more than $900 million in 2008-09, it said.

“Taking into account transfers, in every year we studied, about one-fifth of full-time students who began their studies at a community college did not return for a second year,” the report stated. “These students have paid tuition, borrowed money and changed their lives in pursuit of a degree they will never attain.”

Community colleges have been touted as a key factor in achieving the nation’s goal to increase the number of college-educated citizens, in large part due to their “perceived low price to students,” according to AIR. However, “something that seems so inexpensive can in fact be very costly, once we take into account the low levels of student success,” it said. Read more.

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

You might also be interested in: Big Problems With Claims on Education Tax Credits.

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The Cost of Learning: How Public Benefits Create Pathways to Education

Many people have an idyllic image of college as a time of freedom and exploration, with few responsibilities. Yet more and more students, especially in community colleges, are older, with adult responsibilities, and adult concerns. Many of them are low-income.

For these students, public benefits can be an important bridge to college success, especially among older, non-traditional students with families. Unfortunately, such students often don’t know where to look. Educating students about the help that is available is an investment in their futures that will pay dividends for society.

In search of an affordable path to postsecondary and economic success, 7.1 million students attend community colleges each year. But while tuition costs are significantly lower than those at four-year public institutions, other costs of attending community college – including basic living expenses, transportation, and textbooks – are still substantial. In 2010-11, a year at a community college was estimated to cost $14,637, compared to $20,339 for the average undergraduate at a public, four-year university.

For students who are supporting families, the cost is even higher, as housing, food, and child care costs add to the total. Once a rarity, these students are becoming increasingly common. In 2009, 42.1 percent of students were over 24, and 23 percent were parents.

Financial aid can help to cover costs, but community college students receive comparatively little financial support, and their overall burden is high. In addition, financial aid policies often are written with younger students in mind, some of whom can depend on their own parents for economic support. After accounting for available financial aid, a greater share of community college students still have unmet need (80 percent) than did public four-year college students (54 percent). The average full-time community college student is projected to have more than $6,000 in unmet need in 2010-2011.

Read more.

Posted in Funding, Postsecondary (13-18), Students. Tags: . Comments Off on The Cost of Learning: How Public Benefits Create Pathways to Education