MEDIA RELEASE: Report: Boosting access to community college is critically important for North Carolina

As enrollment grows, costs skyrocket, meaning about half of students cannot finish their post-secondary educational programs  
RALEIGH (June 24, 2010) -- Expanding access to community college would boost North Carolina's economy and help working families improve job skills during the worst recession since the Great Depression, a new report finds.

Community college enrollment has increased dramatically as students seek to gain the skills for future employment during a tough economic time. Enrollment in North Carolina's community college curriculum programs that lead to a certificate, diploma or associate's degree has grown by more than 33 percent since 2000. Growth in enrollment in all programs has increased by 14 percent just since 2007.

But almost half of students fail to complete their educational programs due to financial hardship. In order to build a 21st century economy, North Carolina must increase access.

"For working families, a community college education is a critical investment in a brighter future," said Alexandra Forter Sirota, a policy analyst at the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center and the author of the report. "For North Carolina, making community college accessible is vital to preparing our workforce for the new economy."
Among the report's findings:
  • National evidence suggests that 45 percent of students are failing to complete their education programs due to financial strain.

  • For unemployed workers seeking to upgrade their skills and stimulate North Carolina's economy, access to community college is critical. Yet only about one-third of North Carolina's community college campuses (21 of 58) offer access to federal student loan programs.

  • Sending one student to community college costs working families about one-third of their total family income. The cost of full-time enrollment in community college represents 32 percent of family income for those families in the lowest 40 percent of the income distribution in North Carolina.

  • Tuition at NC community colleges has skyrocketed over the past decade. Since 2000, tuition cost per credit hour has increased by 80 percent.
  • It isn't just tuition that serves as a financial barrier. When costs such as transportation, books and room and board are included, students face an average financial need after financial aid of 80 percent of their education costs.

"If we want to put North Carolinians to work stimulating local economies, we have to reduce the financial barriers to completing a certification or degree program," said Sirota.

The report is available online at:
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Alexandra Sirota, 919.861.1468,; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, 919.863.2402,