New York, NY — A growing number of young students are turning to more affordable community colleges for their higher education, but only an alarming two out of five finish a degree within six years of enrollment, according to a new report published today.
Work Less, Study More & Succeed: How Financial Supports Can Improve Postsecondary Success shows that, while a postsecondary education provides an essential step towards the middle class, it has become financially out of reach for many American families. College costs-including tuition, fees and living expenses-have risen dramatically over the last decade but financial aid hasn't kept pace. As a result, the majority of young community college students enroll in school only part time and often work more than 20 hours per week, endangering their ability to focus on their studies and vastly extending the time it takes to earn a degree, if at all.
"Community Colleges are a cornerstone of the American educational experience, and a key path to a financially stable middle-class life for new generations of young Americans," said Nancy K. Cauthen, the report's co-author and Director of Demos' Economic Opportunity Program. "But far too many qualified young people — especially those who are low- or moderate-income-don't receive the financial supports needed to be successful in college. And for those who do have those supports, they don't stretch far enough."
Work Less, Study More & Succeed comes on the heels of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (H.R. 3221), which would significantly overhaul the financial aid system and provide billions of dollars for increased grant and loan aid by ending wasteful subsidies to student lenders. It would also fund most of the President's American Graduation Initiative, which would "increase the effectiveness and impact of community colleges, raise graduation rates, modernize facilities, and create new online learning opportunities" by 2012. The House of Representatives recently passed this bill and it's now waiting consideration by the Senate.
The report highlights key trends among community college students that underscore the urgency for these reforms:
Work Less, Study More & Succeed was made possible by generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To read the report, visit www.demos.org.
Hard copies of the report will be available at Demos' second annual "A Better Deal: Securing Our Economic Future NOW" conference-a gathering of young leaders and other stakeholders from around the country to discuss the pressing economic issues they face. Washington DC, October 15–16, 2009. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, will provide the Keynote. More information at www.abetterdealconference.org.