More than half of community college students in the City University of New York system stopped out without completing their degrees within three years, even prior to the pandemic, according to a new study by the Center for an Urban Future, a policy research organization focused on economic mobility in New York City.
The study suggests that thousands of students leave CUNY's seven community colleges each year because of the burdens of nontuition costs, such as MetroCards, textbooks, meals and childcare.
The average community college student living at home with parents or other relatives needs $10,368 per year to cover the full costs of college, and the average student living independently needs $24,446 per year, according to estimates on CUNY's website.
Those financial burdens are a heavy lift for CUNY community college students, even with federal and state grants covering tuition for 58 percent of all full-time CUNY undergraduates, the study notes. More than 70 percent of community college students in New York City have a household income of less than $30,000 a year. More than half of students work while in college, most for more than 20 hours a week, and one in six students raises a child while enrolled.
“There’s an understanding that a lot of lower-income families in New York need that help: You need the free train ride to go to school, you need to subsidize textbooks,” Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future told The City. “But when we get to public community colleges -- one grade higher, the 13th and 14th grades -- the financial need doesn’t just go away.”