California offers community college students $4K grants
- Community college students in California who attend full time and take a 15-hour course load now are eligible for grants up to $4,000, which state officials hope will boost four-year graduation rates, EdSource reports.
- The state has found that only about 8% of community college students take 15 or more credits and only another 21% take 12 to 14 credits. Yet students attending California state institutions who take closer to a full course load are more likely to complete a degree in four years, which is one goal of state education officials.
- The Community Colleges Student Success Completion Grant is an expansion of two previous programs that offered $2,500 grants to full-time students. But probably because of the eligibility criteria, only about 5% of the state’s 2.1 million community college students were in a position to obtain the previous grants. The new program will be publicized with a $3 million media campaign and out reach to high schools.
EdSource reports that the new grant program is part of a campaign to encourage students in California to enroll in 15 units a semester as part of the state’s goal to have 40% of students graduate in four years by 2025.
The state faces at least two challenges to reach this goal: Less than half of students enrolled in California community colleges graduate or transfer after six years, and power over policy often rests with the individual institution and the community in which it is located.
There are also national efforts to get community college students to attend full time. Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, for instance, promote students taking 15 credits a semester to finish in two years.
However, critics worry that research on the topic may be faulty, and that some students who attend community college need a lighter load to adjust or because they have other commitments. Other experts warn that students at community colleges have to choose courses carefully to avoid taking some that won’t transfer or are unneeded.
The Brookings Institution, which points out that only 20% of full-time community college students graduate in three years, has highlighted the City University of New York Accelerated Study in Associate Program that has had significant success improving graduation rates with a series of supports for full-time students, including free tuition, textbooks and access the city’s subway and bus system, cohorts designed to provide a sense of community, and frequent advising and tutoring.
While community colleges nationwide are trying to increase the prospects for graduation, they continue to face an enrollment slump that has caused some to consider merging and other efforts to increase applicants and retain students. And some are also offering bachelor’s degrees to entice more enrollees.