Making Community Colleges Engines for Social Mobility: A Century Foundation Working Group on Financial Resources

What is the cost of providing high-quality undergraduate instruction at two-year public community colleges, particularly for low-income students?

Previous research shows that community colleges are not providing the supports necessary for students, especially low-income students, to complete their degrees and transfer to four-year institutions. The proposed study examines a crucial piece of what we need to know to determine the true cost of providing high-quality undergraduate instruction at two-year public community colleges. Kahlenberg will convene a working group of leading researchers and practitioners to establish the first framework for applying what is known about K-12 adequacy research to the community college sector. The members will draw on existing studies that have assessed the level of resources necessary to provide an “adequate” education at the K-12 level. The working group will also address whether providing an “adequate” education in community colleges involves greater costs for low-income students and for students, who are less academically prepared. The working group will commission three papers — a review of K-12 adequacy studies and research designs that could apply to the community college context, a review of the higher education adequacy research, and a paper on potential policy strategies for pursuing higher education adequacy funding. Outcomes will include student completion rates for certificate and degree programs and transfer rates to four-year institutions. The working group will draw on the commissioned papers to develop recommendations for an empirical community college cost study, linked to outcome goals.

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