A significant number of community college students choose to take that route because of the affordability. According to data from College Board, in 2011, community college students paid on average $2,713 in tuition and fees, as compared to $7,605 for students who attended an in-state four-year institution. At less than half the cost, community colleges pose significant financial benefits for students who are on a tight budget.Reference: Center on International Education Benchmarking
However, time seems to be the biggest enemy of students who begin their post-secondary education at the community college level. The College Board’s report shows that of the cohort of students who began their community college studies in 2005, only 21 percent graduated within three years – a full year longer than is traditionally required. Many of the financial benefits gained by attending a two-year institution are lost if students aren’t able to complete their degree on time. Yet, students who enroll in a two-year program are the ones who are most likely to be impacted by factors that extend their graduation timeline. These factors are varied and many.
Being unprepared for the academic rigors of college study does not bode well for graduation and completion of a degree. Remedial students are more likely to drop out of college and those who stay are less likely to complete their degree requirements than their peers. What’s more, just 25 percent of students who take remedial courses at a community college earn their certificate or degree. Thus, students who go to college to improve themselves end up leaving because the time required to become college ready is more than they can afford.