Yesterday, Norton Norris, Inc. released a survey of 332 career college students who have attended community colleges in the past. The study was of particular interest to me because of my family’s long-time involvement with and support of community colleges; my wife spent 35 years as faculty member and administrator, and both she and my son have Associate’s degrees. The Norton Norris survey found that career colleges ranked higher on 13 out of 14 aspects of its study, including job placement services and flexibility of class schedules.
What I found most interesting was the study’s break-down of the costs of education between the for-profit sector and the publicly funded community college. There was a significant difference between career and community colleges with career colleges’ costing about $25,000 more per student graduate. The study makes the following observations. Community colleges only graduate 20.3% of their enrolled students, compared to 58.2% at private sector schools. Community colleges do not assist most students with job placement and community colleges are not more accessible to students; overcrowding and scheduling continue to be major concerns.
Traditional community colleges do provide a low price option for someone to take a single course or a few courses, and this is part of their mission and a source of the higher cost per graduating student. But the outcomes of the study are noteworthy, especially in light of the very high cost-per-graduate difference. It is also worth noting, in light of the recent GAO report on for-profit colleges and universities, that the Norton Norris study found some less-than admirable practices from traditional community colleges. Community colleges are also guilty of withholding important information from prospective students, such as graduation rates. Moreover, like their career college counterpart, community colleges also advertise relatively widely today, and they use the public’s tax dollars to do so. While no misleading practice by career colleges or community colleges is acceptable, the study paints a much more positive picture of the for-profit career college than information the public has recently received from many media.
Click here to view one video that was produced as a result of the study.