Community colleges have recently been thrust to the forefront of higher-education policy. From state lawmakers pushing new ways to answer work-force needs, to President Obama’s proposal to make the colleges free, the attention on community colleges is sharpening.
Coverage of issues regarding community colleges has included a sprinkling of community-college statistics, some of which may be skewed by leaving out certain institutions that are traditionally thought of as community colleges.
For instance, take a 2013 study by the American Institutes for Research on the return on investment for associate degrees. The study included 579 community colleges, but it’s missing a huge group: community colleges that offer four-year degrees.
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, there are 1,132 community colleges in the United States, 986 of which are public institutions. Historically, those colleges have allowed students to stay in their local communities while receiving specialized training that local employers seek.
Yet the AIR study includes only seven of the 28 community colleges in Florida. The 21 other institutions are omitted because they offer at least one four-year degree.