Pulling back the curtain on community colleges

Community colleges are falling short in serving their students
Our new, national study of 332 students who have attended both community college and career colleges rated their career college higher in 13 out of 14 categories, ranging from qualities such as personal attention and quality of courses to class schedules and job placement services.

Community colleges misled prospective students
As part of our research, we sent “mystery shoppers” to 15 community colleges in six states. None of the schools provided graduation rates, even when asked directly. More than half, eight out of 15, failed to provide information on salaries of graduates. And of the seven that did, none provided accurate information. In fact, two schools provided significantly inflated earnings information, giving the impression that their graduates earn much more than they do.

Community colleges have aggressive marketing programs – funded by taxpayer dollars
Whether it’s billboards, buses, newspapers or television, community colleges use advertising to recruit students, just like career colleges. The difference is community colleges are taxpayer-funded.

Community colleges cost the taxpayer more
When you look at taxpayer subsidies to community colleges, the taxpayer contributes $32,000 to each community college graduate, as opposed to $7,600 at the average career college. That’s a $25,000 difference – quite a saving for taxpayers.

The bottom line: things at community colleges aren’t as rosy as some policy makers may think.

The government is wasting valuable time and money – my money as a taxpayer – by promoting community colleges over career colleges when for many students, career colleges are the right choice. It’s time the government stops singling out career colleges and has an open dialogue around the facts.

Dr. Jean Norris is Managing Partner of Norton | Norris, Inc. (nortonnorris.com), a Chicago-based marketing, advertising and training company focused on the higher education sector. She is the lead author of a new study of community colleges commissioned by the Coalition for Education Success (ed-success.org) and is an advocate of career colleges as a viable student choice. Jean began her educational pursuit in a 10-month medical assisting diploma program.