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January 04, 2011 3:35 PM When Community College Isn’t an Option

By Daniel Luzer

Oddly, it appears that low funding for public higher education my actually be pushing people into for-profit schools. According to an article by John Lauerman in the San Francisco Chronicle:

As state budget cuts lock students out of community college classrooms or force them to stand in class, for-profit colleges are attracting hundreds of thousands of poor and minority students, charging as much as 10 times as much for the same degree.
The industry, including Washington Post Co.’s Kaplan University, has tripled enrollment to 1.8 million in the past decade by pouring billions of dollars into marketing and recruiting, offering flexible online classes and outfitting more-modern campuses while states slash funding for community colleges. As much as 90 percent of revenue at each for-profit college comes from federal student aid.

State budget cuts don’t really price students out of community colleges, so much as they simply cause overcrowding. This makes it difficult for community colleges to enroll all the students interested in attending.

Despite vast differences in price, community colleges and for-profit schools serve similar populations. Because both types of schools are open admission and are designed for working adults, they mutually attract low-income, first-generation students.

The average community college costs $2,360. The average for-profit college, in contrast, works out to cost about $13,744 a year.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer