Teachers College, Columbia University

Community Colleges and the Equity Agenda: What the Record Shows

By Thomas Bailey, Davis Jenkins, James Jacobs & D. Timothy Leinbach

This paper presents national data on the economic returns to postsecondary education for African American and Hispanic students and the performance of community colleges and other postsecondary institutions in expanding access to opportunity by racial/ethnic minority students.

Community colleges are a key access point to postsecondary education for traditionally underrepresented groups. About half of Hispanic students and 45 percent of African American students in undergraduate programs in the United States are enrolled at community colleges.

Challenges to affirmative action in higher education are limiting the pool of racial/ethnic minority students who enroll at a four-year institutions directly out of high school and could result in even larger numbers of minority students entering higher education through community colleges. This trend will be accentuated by rising tuition costs at four-year institutions.

The conclusion of the paper raises questions that are the focus of a major new research program recently launched by the Community College Research Center on community colleges and minority degree attainment.