- A new study reveals that community colleges rely on tuition revenue as a primary funding source, thanks in part to enrollment figures. In California, more than 60% of college students attend community college, while in Vermont, the nation's most costly community college system enrolls only about 21%.
- Public funding also impacts the variance in community college costs, with South Carolina offering aid to more than 90% of its of first-time two-year students while New Hampshire offers aid to less than half of its enrollees.
- Community colleges in rural areas, which offer curriculum that is less focused on emerging or breakthrough industries like engineering or public health, tend to receive less funding than metropolitan counterparts, even in the same state.
Two-year institutions may be at the heart of the nation re-imagining the business of higher education, but they are also the institutions most vulnerable to merger and closure as a result of state divestment. Vermont may be the nation's highest-ranked state in terms of cost of enrollment, but it is the same state which is also attempting to reduce overall costs by merging institutions in its four-year system.
The report may increase calls for free community college among higher ed advocates, but despite the lack of support it has among political circles, the real challenge issued by the report is for college leaders to examine the industrial development opportunities which exist in immediate and extended service areas, and to connect curriculum to those industries for funding and economic relevance.