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2008 Spotlight

Community College

Section 1. Institutional Characteristics

State Community College Systems

Each state has its own community college system, with the number of institutions and the size of their student body varying across the states (see figure 5). The largest state community college system is in California. In fall 2005, California's 111 community colleges enrolled 1.4 million students (about 23 percent of the nation's community college students) (see table SA-5). The smallest state community college systems are in Rhode Island and Vermont (each of which has one community college) and in Alaska and Nevada (each of which has two).

The percentage of a state's adult population (18 years old and older), the primary population served by community colleges, varies across the states, suggesting that the size of a state community college system is not simply the function of its population size. For instance, the two states with the largest ratio of community college enrollment to adult population are California, which has the largest adult population of all the states, and Wyoming, which has the smallest adult population of all the states. In California, community college enrollments equal 5.2 percent of the adult population; in Wyoming, it equals 5.0 percent of the adult population (see table SA-5). In contrast, in New York and Pennsylvania, two of the five states with the largest adult populations, community college enrollments as a percentage of the adult population are 1.8 and 1.3 percent, respectively. In three states (Alaska, Nevada, and South Dakota), this ratio is under 1.0 percent.

State and local government agencies are the primary source of funding for community colleges. In 2004–05, expenditures for community colleges totaled $38.6 billion, with 38 percent of revenues coming from state funding,7 20 percent from local funding, 15 percent from federal funding, and the remainder from student tuition and fees (17 percent) and other sources (10 percent) (U.S. Department of Education 2008b, tables 338, 339, and 348). Sources of revenue for individual public colleges can vary widely from these averages. For example, institutions in some states receive little or no funding from local sources and those in other states receive substantial amounts. In comparison, expenditures for public 4-year institutions totaled $177.2 billion, with 27 percent of revenues coming from state funding, 4 percent from local funding, 15 percent from federal funding, and the remainder from student tuition and fees (16 percent) and other sources (38 percent).

Community colleges have lower expenditures than public 4-year colleges and universities. In 2004–05, the average total expenditure per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student at a community college was $10,500 compared with $31,900 at a public 4-year college or university (U.S. Department of Education 2008b, table 348).8 The instructional cost per FTE student at community colleges was $4,100 compared with $8,000 at public 4-year colleges and universities.9 In making these comparisons, it is important to bear in mind that community colleges have a larger proportion of part-time students than 4-year colleges and universities, thus the FTE student count for community colleges represents a greater number of individual students than the FTE student count for 4-year colleges and universities. In addition, because instructional costs include faculty salaries, instructional costs for 4-year colleges and universities may be higher than at community colleges by virtue of the fact that a greater proportion of faculty at 4-year institutions have doctorates, are employed full time, and spend a greater portion of their time on research and noninstitutional activities than community college faculty (see the discussion under Faculty).

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7 State funding includes state grants and contracts for operations, state appropriations, state nonoperating grants, and capital appropriations. (back to text)

8 Total expenditures include current outlays plus capital outlays to the extent that those capital costs are included as depreciation. (back to text)

9 The number of FTE students at 4-year colleges and universities includes graduate students. (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 5: Estimated number of students enrolled in each state's community colleges, by state: Fall 2005

Table SA-5: Number of degree–granting community colleges, size of their total enrollment, and ratio of enrollment to adult population, by state or jurisdiction: 2005–06