How to Get the College Classes You Need During the Community College Crisis

By Beth Dumbauld

Community colleges are the workhorses of the educational system. A high-functioning community college acts as the educational on-ramp for a diverse set of students whose goals are as varied as the students themselves. As wide-ranging as community college student backgrounds are, what they do have in common is an urgent need for increased community college system accessibility.  

College accessibility is a broad concept. It can mean different things to different students. For many, accessibility means financial affordability. For others, accessibility means flexible enrollment options. For others, accessibility is about the ease of the admissions process. For others still, accessibility means just-in-time access to the college classes you need, when you need them – and that taking those college classes isn’t contingent on a number of complicated (or expensive) logistical barriers. 

If you are considering a community college in California – what does college accessibility mean to you?

The community college system plays an important role in higher education in the United States, and in California in particular, because it is often perceived as the most accessible point of entry into a college system. The unfortunate truth about the California community college system is that perception is no longer reality. 

Perception: “I can always take a class at my local community college.”

Reality: The California Community College system is in crisis. The truth is, the demand for accessible education has never been higher, but the resources available to meet that demand has never fallen so short.  

The Result: Community college students are getting shut out of classes and access to the educational programs they need. There’s a huge cost to all of this waiting – every missed hour, missed class, or missed semester is a missed opportunity. 

The Role the California Community College System Plays in Education 

In California, the vast majority of enrolled undergraduate students are enrolled in a community college. In fact, the number of students enrolled at a California community college is over 7 times1 as many as any of the other college systems in the state. 

Number of Undergraduates Enrolled in the California College System*2

  • Community College of California (CCC): 2,606,356
  • California State University (CSU): 347,660
  • University of California (UC): 179,581
  • Private: (Members of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities)* 147,000

*Statistics are for School Year 2010-2011

As big a presence and role the community college system has in California, when it fails, it fails big. Due to underfunding, and explosive student need, the community college system is unable to meet the educational needs of all current and potential students. In fact, during the 2010-11 school year, 139,000 students3 were turned away from the California community college system due to a lack of adequate funding. Currently, hundreds of thousands of enrolled students are being forced onto wait-lists and being turned away from oversubscribed classes. Hundreds of thousands of students’ futures are at risk – are you one of them?

1Community College League of California, Fast Facts 2012, 9/2012, p.1



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