Nov 16, 2022 - News

Cred for Washington's community colleges

Illustration of a golden apple on a stack of books.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

With concerns about student debt mounting and the value of traditional, four-year degrees up for debate, the role of community colleges is expanding.

Driving the news: A 2022 WalletHub analysis of community colleges across the country found that Washington's system was fourth best overall.

  • 677 schools were evaluated on three key metrics: Cost and financing, educational outcomes and career outcomes.
  • While none of Washington's community colleges placed in the top 10 individually, their combined, weighted scores along with the number of students enrolled statewide shows an impactful, accessible system.

Background: The pandemic exacerbated an existing trend of declining undergraduate enrollment in four-year programs, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

  • This past spring, enrollment in graduate programs declined by 3.5% over last year while the number of undergraduates enrolled in college nationwide was down 9.4% compared to two years ago — a loss of nearly 1.4 million students.

The bottom line: The authors of "Recognizing Promise: The Role of Community Colleges in a Post Pandemic World. Great Debates in Higher Education" say it's time to erase the idea that community colleges are inferior to four-year programs.

  • Instead, they should be embraced for their role in leveling economic and racial disparities and creating stronger workforces and a more educated citizenry.

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