New Report: Community College Drop-Outs Cost American Taxpayers Almost $1 Billion a Year

Barry Lenson

New Report: Community College Drop-Outs Cost American Taxpayers Almost $1 Billion a Year

Community College Drop-Outs Cost American TaxpayersEverybody loves community colleges. They teach skills that prepare students for real-world jobs. They help tens of thousands of American students get started in college. They save those students lots of money.  They provide a great alternative route to college for students who didn’t perform well in high school.  They also serve as a launching pad for students who want to transfer to four-year colleges and universities. And president Obama has stated that he is counting on community colleges to play a major role in increasing the number of American college graduates.

Yet a report, “The Hidden Costs of Community Colleges,” just released by American Institutes for Research, points out that there is a huge downside too. Community colleges, the report finds, are costing American taxpayers nearly $1 billion annually – an expense that is ramping up due to the high dropout rate at community colleges.

To quote from the report . . .

“Given the central role that community colleges play in the nation’s plans to regain its position as the number one country in the world when it comes to college-educated adults, and given the increasing fiscal difficulties facing individual states and the nation as a whole, it is clear that `business as usual’ is far too expensive . Better ways are needed to ensure that the students who enter a community college expecting to earn an associate’s degree or a certificate finish the first lap and ultimately cross the finish line.”

Here is some data from the report that documents the problem. All figures pertain to five academic years (2004–05 through 2008–09):

  • State and local governments appropriated close to $3 billion to community colleges to help pay for the education of students who did not return for a second year.
  • States also spent more than $240 million for grants to support students who did not return for a second year.
  • The federal government spent approximately $660 million on grants for students who (you guessed it) did not return to their community colleges for a second year.

If you add up those figures, you will discover that taxpayers spent nearly $4 billion in federal, state, and local taxes on students who dropped out.

This is discouraging news, to say the least. We already knew that it was time for just about every other kind of college and university to be revamped, from state universities to middle-tier liberal arts colleges. Now it turns out that community colleges are in the same costly pickle as everybody else.

This crisis argues for an increase in computerized instruction.  Distance learning, along with its many other virtues, has a proven ability to deliver quality instruction to the largest number of students at the lowest cost.

Do you agree? Or if you can think of a solution to this latest – and possibly greatest – problem in American higher education, why not take a moment and post your reply below?


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College Drop-Outs Are Costing American Taxpayers Billions

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