For decades, community college has been the starting point for students earning a college education. For students that cannot afford to pay the tuition costs for a four-year university right after high school graduation, the local community college offers a lower cost option for getting their education on its way. In spite of community colleges being a popular alternative to a four-year degree program, enrollment in community colleges is falling. Some education experts blame it on the economy and declining population rates. Other financial experts say it’s the placement test that some community colleges require. These placement tests are forcing some students to waste money they don’t have taking remedial courses rather than launching right into earning their two-year degree.

Placement Tests

According to the Washington Post, one California student was required to take a placement test before enrolling in classes. Unfortunately, she failed the placement test, which forced her to enroll in a remedial class. The kicker is that she had already taken the class and earned credit for it previously, before returning to college. But, since she failed the placement test, she is now wasting money taking classes that she has already taken.

Placement tests are not the policy for all community colleges. The tests are not even the policy of different departments in the same community college. For example, at the second largest community college in the country, Northern Virginia Community College, if the student had failed the math placement test, the math department would require the student to enroll in remedial class. If the student failed the English placement test however, this would not be the case.

The moral of the story is that students need to find out what the policy of the community college is on placement tests. The outcome of these tests can affect the students’ ability to choose their courses and save money by paying for courses that are required toward earning a degree, rather than classes forced upon the student because of a placement test score.


Connecticut Community College blames enrollment decreases on the economy and a declining population. In Connecticut’s 12 community colleges, enrollment has plummeted by 7.4 percent for full-time students and a one percent drop overall for the fall semester.

It’s a double whammy when you talk about the downturn in the economy. Not only is the economy causing students to have less money to cover their college education, but even community college budgets have seen their fair share of cutbacks. Cutbacks to community college budgets have caused:

  • Application acceptance caps
  • Cutting out class and course options
  • Laying off professors

Population Decline

The recession did not only hit the economy, but it also made a dent in the Baby Boomer population. Some education experts blame the decline in community college enrollment on basic population cycles that the U.S. goes through. With the number of college graduates declining, so is the number of college applications.

Some would argue that the high unemployment rate would force the unemployed to return to college to improve their skills and make them more marketable in the job market. According to Michael Meotti, executive vice president of the state’s new Board of Regents, which oversees community colleges and the Connecticut State University├é┬ásystem, retraining may have already exhausted itself because the unemployment rate has been so high for so long.

Community colleges are often lower-cost options than four-year colleges to obtain a college degree. The statistics are revealing something different, with a decline in the number of students enrolling in community college. Financial experts blame it on several things, but only time will tell what the real truth is.

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