I was looking up some data on higher education spending in the Delta Project’s excellent report on 1999-2009 trends (PDF), but I thought I’d first dwell a little bit on the graphic above. It shows that far and away the largest share of American undergraduates attend community colleges, even though community colleges receive approximately zero media attention in debates about higher ed funding and tuition. Not only have I read many more articles about disputes over University of California (i.e., “public research”) funding than California community college funding, I’m quite sure I’ve read many more articles about the future of Community than about the future of community colleges. Community colleges not only charge less tuition than the more discussed, more exclusive kinds of public colleges and universities, they also get lower per-student appropriations from state and local governments.
I’m glad to hear that the Century Foundation is starting a task force on community college affordability. People like to write and read about the kinds of institutions that they and their friends and family attended, but as far as the marginal American trying to get a bit more education is concerned, community college is where the action is.