Getting What We Pay for: State Community College Funding Strategies that Benefit Low-Income, Lower-Skilled Students.
ERIC Descriptors: Educational Finance; Community Colleges; Expenditures; Funding Formulas; Income; Tuition; State Colleges; Financial Support; Low Income Groups; At Risk Students; State Policy; Policy Formation; Educational Policy; Economic Development; State Aid; Taxes; Resource Allocation; Access to Education; Student Personnel Services
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Community colleges across the nation appear to be facing a "perfect storm" during which surging enrollments, tepid state funding, and strong accountability forces are colliding to severely threaten access to and completion of postsecondary education and credentials by lower-skilled and low-income students. In the last few years, record enrollments have resulted in classes filling up faster, colleges closing courses sooner, and institutions capping enrollments. Many community colleges have been able to escape funding cuts and actually receive small funding increases. These increases, however, have not kept up with the overall record jump in enrollment and have resulted in "net" funding decreases at most institutions. One approach to survive this perfect storm is to consider how states can fund community colleges differently to improve access and outcomes, further state economic goals, and ensure lower-skilled and low-income students are served effectively. State funding is a powerful tool to influence institutional priorities and practices. This policy brief describes strategies state policymakers can use to realign community college financing--including tuition policies--to improve postsecondary access and success for lower-skilled and low-income students and to achieve stronger state economic health. To provide a common understanding of the issues, the brief begins with an overview of how community colleges are currently funded. It focuses specifically on state strategies for funding community colleges since they are the type of institution many lower-income students attend. Appended are: (1) State-by-State Breakdown of Community College Revenue Sources (2008); (2) State Appropriations to Community Colleges as a Percentage of Total State Expenditures (FY 2008); (3) State Tax Appropriations to Community Colleges (Fiscal Years 2007-2009); (4) State Spending by Function as a Percent of Total State Expenditures (FY 2008); and (5) State Use of Formula Funding for Community Colleges (2007). (Contains 1 figure and 43 endnotes.)