Completion Rates Outpace Growth in Community-College Enrollment, Report Says

October 05, 2011

The percentage of students who successfully earn credentials from community colleges has increased greatly over the last 22 years, especially among students of color, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Association of Community Colleges.

Data collected between 1989 and 2010 show that the percentage of degrees and certificates awarded grew at twice the rate of enrollment, following a decade of virtually no improvement during the 1980s. Students earned 127 percent more credentials, while enrollment increased by 65 percent over the same period.

In recent years, many government and education leaders have started efforts to build a more educated work force and to increase the completion of college among minority groups, investments that the report says "are paying off."

Members of minorities have seen the most growth in attaining degrees and certificates, especially Hispanic students, whose population at community colleges doubled while they earned more than four times the number of credentials. Rates of transfer into four-year and other higher-education institutions have also increased by at least 11 percent for all students.

Community-college enrollment has grown rapidly in the past three years, from 10.6 million to 12 million, a boom that has been widely attributed to people's seeking new job skills in the wake of the recession. While rates of completion are improving, the report stresses that more needs to be done to encourage completion of degrees, especially among minority students, who continue to fall behind white students in earning college credentials. Black students and Hispanics, for example, graduate at about half the rate of white students.