The Impact of Current Economic Crisis on Community Colleges

Article excerpt

The focus of the study was to examine the impact of the recession on (1) community college funding, (2) community college student support services, and (3) on student enrollment. This study relied on data from document analysis and interview of community college personnel and students. The current crisis has resulted in a steep budget reduction to community colleges in North Carolina. The participants in the interview indicated that the crisis has resulted in severe cuts in student support services especially in the area of counseling and advising. Students reported that they are experiencing cuts in course offerings and the switch by some colleges to a four-day work week has impacted their ability to balance work and school.


The mission of North Carolina's Community College system is to provide 21st century accessible educational opportunities to citizens of the state and minimize barriers to post-secondary education. There are 58 community colleges that offer associate degrees, college transfer programs, job training, literacy programs, and basic adult education programs to all 100 counties in the state. Community colleges have been known to be the most cost-effective way to provide access for students to earn college degrees (Phelam, 2000). Grubb, Badway, Bell, and Castellano (2000) stated that community colleges are important in meeting the training demands of subbaccalaureate sector of the workforce. Grubb (1999) emphasized that community colleges are key to dealing with workforce shortages and job training. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the current economic crisis on North Carolina community colleges.

Research Questions

1. What is the impact of the current economic crisis on community college funding in North Carolina?

2. What is the impact of the current economic crisis on community college student support services in North Carolina?

3. What is the impact of the current economic crisis on student enrollment in North Carolina community colleges?


The sampling flame for this study consist of forty-two community college personnel (25 teachers, 12 administrators, 5 support service personnel) and sixty-five students selected from eight community colleges across the State (Table 1).The majority of the community college personnel and students in the study were female (68.5%) and (60.1%) consecutively. The demographic data show that students ranged in ages from 21 years to 58 years of age. The students are also in community college for a variety of reasons that ranged from vocational education, leisure studies, to degree seeking.


Multiple perspectives (Johnson & Christensen, 2004) were used to add insight and understanding on the impact of economic crisis on North Carolina community colleges. A qualitative survey instrument was developed and used for the study with interview protocol (Patton 1999).


Data were collected from community college personnel, students, and documents were utilized. The participants completed 4 open-ended questions designed to elicit information on the impact of the current economic crisis on community college. Documents from the North Carolina Community College System were analyzed and the participants' responses were coded according to the themes that emerged.


Research has shown that student enrollment often grow rapidly in severe economic crisis (Carnevale, 2000; Grub et. …


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