Penn GSE IRHE

Community College Affordability

A Failing Safety Net examines the difficulty faced by states in providing affordable workforce and higher education training for their residents. As the percent of family income required to attend a public or private four-year institution has increased, it has also gone up for many community colleges across the nation – often seen as the safety net of postsecondary education. Most states have seen an increase in the percent of family income required to pay for community colleges thus making them less affordable for families than in 2008 – even in the face of economic recovery in many states. This trend collides with a dramatic increase in demand for postsecondary credentials from employers and the growing diversity of learners – first generation, minority, and adults – who need some education beyond high school in order to find a decent job and maintain a middle-class standard of living. 

The data used to understand the affordability of community colleges were drawn from College Affordability Diagnosis (2016) released earlier this year.

Press Release

Safety Net of Community College Is Fraying, According to New Report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education