The pipeline for getting more Americans a college degree has sprung some leaks. A plurality of students who earn bachelor’s degrees do so by starting out at a community college. This is especially true for first-generation students and those from lower-income households, especially minorities. In a real sense, community colleges represent their most likely pathway to a college degree. It is also becoming an important pathway for students from middle-income households, who seek to avoid taking on too much college debt and prefer to begin their college journey nearer to home.
Yet overall enrollment at community colleges nationwide has been declining since 2011. It dropped an additional 3.4% since last year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) data.