Community College Perceptions: Behind the Statistics

Part 1 of Financial Aid: Crucial to Community College Student Success Nationwide

By Amy Glynn, VP of Financial Aid and Community Initiatives

April is National Community College Awareness Month—a time set aside to showcase contributions that the nation’s community, technical, and public and private junior colleges make in furthering access to higher education. More than 1,100 community colleges serve in excess of 12 million students—and they’re facing change at unprecedented levels.

Driving the ABCs of student finance—improving accessibility, reducing student borrowing, and driving completion—at a community college requires innovation, challenging the status quo, and keeping the ever-changing needs of students front-and-center. In this series, I’m thrilled to welcome thought leaders from City College of San Francisco and Houston Community College to the #IMakeFinAidAwesome blog. They’re sharing their unique insights on everything from the shifting demographics of community college students—and how to meet their expectations—to how to communicate effectively with them.

Community Colleges: The Statistics Behind Today’s Reality

Community colleges are often in the news, seen as everything from, “a partial solution to the student debt crisis,” to problematic in terms of low degree completion rates. To understand the reality behind the problems, consider the world in which these students live:

  • 88% of community college students are non-traditional
  • 36% are first-generation college students
  • 62% attend part time
  • 41% of part-time students work full time, 32% work part time
  • 30% have children; 53% of all student-parents leave school with no degree
  • 58% receive financial aid; 38% receive federal grants, 19% receive federal loans
  • $4,700: The average amount of financial aid received by community college students
  • The average community college student is 28 years old and female—but getting younger

Community College Students and Financial Aid

Community college students are less likely to borrow—and they borrow less, on average. But they’re more likely to default on federal loans than students at other institutions. For those who persist, nearly one-in-five community college students are “so worried about finances that they’ve considered dropping out.” And it’s no wonder: Think about the fact that the cost of a textbook has increased more than 70% since 2006—more than four times the rate of inflation. One-in-three community college students have a family income lower than $20,000—and one-fifth say they wouldn’t be able to financially deal with an emergency. Thirty percent of community college students are food insecure, too. Meanwhile, the cost of community college has doubled since 1980.

How Your Peers Are Managing the Shift

When you look at all of these statistics, the idea of managing to all of these variables—and to the changing environment—can feel overwhelming. The demands that are being placed on our open-access colleges, and how these institutions respond, can make or break them within their communities. That’s why we reached out to some of the true innovators in student financial services to see how they are addressing the shifting needs of their students.

In our next installment, Elizabeth Coria, Dean of Financial Aid and Student Success Programs at City College of San Francisco, talks about diversity, accessibility, and their Path to 32,000.

Read more from Amy >


About the Author

Amy Glynn, VP Student Financial Success

Amy Glynn joined CampusLogic in 2013, focused on helping colleges and universities deliver student financial success through automation, advising, and analytics. Ever-focused on improving staff efficiency and the student experience, Amy has spent more than a decade optimizing the financial aid process while ensuring institutions maintained compliance with Federal Title IV regulations. A sought-after national-stage speaker, Amy champions ideas that can help turn the tide for the nearly 3 million students who drop out of higher education every year for reasons related to finances. Student financial success has become a strategic imperative for all higher education institutions and Amy often lends her voice to policy discussions focused on improving accessibility, driving informed borrowing, and increasing completion. Amy earned her Master of Science in Higher Education from Walden University.

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