…Among trajectories for community college students, Mr. Rifino’s path is decidedly out of the ordinary. Of the full-time students who started at LaGuardia in 2008, as he did, less than 17 percent graduated within three years. Only a quarter of LaGuardia students complete their associate degree in six years, a figure that is high for urban community colleges.
Five years ago, with Detroit’s deadened factories as a backdrop, President Obama announced an initiative to mint five million more community college graduates by 2020. The announcement coincided with a report from the Council of Economic Advisers anticipating a significantly greater demand for jobs requiring analytic skills. Two-year colleges enroll nearly half of all undergraduates in this country, the majority coming from the lower half of the income distribution. In the case of LaGuardia, more than two-thirds of its students come from families making $25,000 a year or less. It is hard to see how economic mobility might regain momentum, or how an educated citizenry might be maintained, without community colleges accomplishing their mission of graduating the poor and struggling. <Read more.>