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$78 Billion Gap for Community Colleges

October 7, 2020

Community colleges receive $8,800 less in education revenue per enrolled student than four-year colleges. There is a gap of $78 billion total between the two sectors because of this, according to an analysis from the Center for American Progress.

The revenue gap is driven by tuition and fees, as well as state appropriations. Four-year colleges receive $7,100 more per full-time-equivalent enrollment in tuition revenue than two-year colleges, accounting for $55.5 billion of the total revenue gap, the report states. Revenue from grants and scholarships makes up $2.9 billion of the gap.

Four-year colleges also receive $3,700 more per full-time-equivalent enrollment in state appropriations than community colleges, accounting for $31.3 billion of the total gap. Only four states -- Colorado, Delaware, New Hampshire and Wisconsin -- don't appropriate more per student at four-year colleges than two-year colleges.

Community colleges do receive more revenue from local appropriations, though. They get $2,016 per full-time-equivalent enrollment, compared to $39 at four-year colleges.

Funding varies between states. New Jersey has a much larger per-student revenue gap at about $14,000. Wisconsin is the only state where the average community college receives more per student in revenue than four-year colleges.

And while some states have large revenue gaps between sectors, they also have high per-student funding levels compared to other states, like Connecticut. Whereas states like South Dakota have smaller revenue gaps, but low overall funding levels.

The report recommends that federal and state governments fund colleges in a more equitable way through a partnership. The federal government should also provide grants for institutional operating support, and states should reform their appropriation measures, the report states.

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Madeline St. Amour

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