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2008 Spotlight

Community College

Section 1. Institutional Characteristics

Number, Size, and Location

Between 1974–75 and 2006–07, the number of community colleges in the United States increased by 17 percent, from 896 to 1,045 (see table SA-1 and figure 1). The number of community colleges was highest during the 1997–98 academic year (1,092 institutions).5 Compared with the growth rate of other types of postsecondary institutions between 1974–75 and 2006–07, community colleges have grown at a slower rate. For example, the number of public 4-year colleges and universities increased by 20 percent (from 537 to 643), while the number of private 4-year colleges and universities increased by 49 percent (from 1,329 to 1,986).

The typical size and location of colleges and universities vary by the control and type of institution, but community colleges tend to have relatively moderate-sized enrollments and are located across all community types (see table SA-2). Whereas public 4-year colleges and universities tend to have large enrollments (62 percent enroll 5,000 students or more) and private not-for-profit 4-year colleges and universities tend to have small enrollments (75 percent enroll fewer than 2,500 students), the majority of community colleges (71 percent) enroll between 1,000 and 10,000 students (see figure 2 and table SA-3). Also unlike public and private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, which tend to be in cities, community colleges are distributed more evenly across community types, with 29 percent each in cities and rural areas, 24 percent in towns, and 18 percent in suburban areas (see figure 3).


5 Although the number of community colleges has remained fairly steady over the past few years, more recent year-to-year changes are partially due to how branch campuses and technical schools are counted and to the revision of survey procedures and definitions (Cohen and Brawer 2003, p. 14). (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 1: Number of degree–granting institutions in the United States, by control and type of institution: Selected academic years, 1974–75 through 2006–07

Figure 2: Percentage distribution of degree–granting institutions, by control and type of institution and enrollment size: Fall 2006

Figure 3: Percentage of degree–granting institutions, by control and type of institution and community type: Fall 2006

Table SA-1: Number of degree–granting institutions, by control and type of institution: Academic years 1974–75 through 2006–07

Table SA-2: Number of degree–granting institutions, by enrollment size, control and type of institution, and community type: Fall 2006

Table SA-3: Percentage distribution of degree–granting institutions, by enrollment size, control and type of institution, and community type: Fall 2006

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education