Report Shows Funding Disparities for Community Colleges

Posted By Eliana Osborn on June 11, 2015 at 2:26 pm
Report Shows Funding Disparities for Community Colleges

Private research universities spend five times as much per pupil than community colleges, according to a new study from the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.  Public universities triple the amounts spent at community colleges as well.  However, there are good reasons for this, including money spent on research and the increased costs of educating students in their last two years of college.

More disturbing, though, is the amount of public funds allocated to these three types of schools.  Community colleges, working with the highest proportion of low-income students, “receive less than half the public funding per student that public research universities do,” reports Jill Berman at Market Watch.

By not adequately funding community colleges, the money states do provide isn’t doing enough to help students get degrees.  That means that each degree ends up actually costing more—bad math all around.

Per-pupil public funding for 2011 was $7,420 for the public community college sector.  Compare that to $16,303 in the public research sector.  These tax dollars are being allocated inequitably, making it harder for community college students to complete their educations and get high-paying jobs.  And community college students generally need greater resources in terms of advisement, orientation, and other college services—things that cost money.

What’s more, the Century Foundation report found that funding disparities are increasing: “In the period from 2001 to 2011, funding increased substantially at public and private research universities, while public community colleges actually saw a $904 decline in real funding.”

Even among community colleges, there is inequity in funding, since they are supported by local bonds and tax rates in addition to state and federal funds.  This is the same issue that affects public K-12 schools as well, meaning that quality of facilities and education often vary depending on where a school is built.

The concerns raised by this report are important in this age of ever-increasing higher education expenses.  As more and more students choose community colleges because they cannot afford four-year universities, these funding disparities make even less sense.  Equally funding pupils at all public schools in a state should be a given, regardless of where they are attending.  To do otherwise perpetuated the stratification of society at the very places we have established for young people to excel and better themselves.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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