Paving the Way to Equitable, Adequate, and Effective Community College Funding

August 2021–December 2024

Community colleges are a primary gateway for students from low-income backgrounds and students of color to obtain an affordable and high-quality postsecondary education. Community colleges struggle to meet this mission, however, because policymakers do not fund them at a level that provides the resources needed to increase completion and reduce disparities in persistence and attainment by race and income. Institutional leaders also need better information on how to allocate available resources in service of improved outcomes. The field lacks established methodologies and accurate estimates of the costs associated with supporting the full range of community college students to credential attainment. It also is stymied by a dearth of research on the costs of implementing evidence-based practice and policy.

This project will begin to address this gap by examining community college funding policy and institutional resources allocation in three states: Texas, California, and Ohio. The research includes an analysis of how select higher-performing colleges in each state retain and graduate traditional college-aged and adult students of color, and it will document the resource requirements of evidence-driven success initiatives and strategies in use at these colleges. These resource inventories and implementation studies will be used to derive estimates of the per-student cost to support students through obtaining a postsecondary credential. The project also includes comparative analyses detailing how the three study states vary in their approach to funding community colleges, how they address existing disparities in outcomes by race and income, and how they could develop funding regimes that more adequately and equitably support community colleges. The analysis will include an investigation of how states are utilizing federal resources and how they might be most effective in utilizing potential additional federal funds to increase credential attainment and decrease racial equity gaps. This project will provide tools, resources, and support to states as they work to reform and strengthen their community college funding regimes. To ensure robust uptake of these results, this project includes a range of activities to strengthen the field’s capacity to utilize the research findings and planning tools, and to engage the research, advocacy, and policymaking communities to work collaboratively to strengthen community college finance systems nationwide.

This project is a partnership with the consulting firm HCM Strategists and is funded by Lumina Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ascendium Education Group.

Project Lead

Nikki Edgecombe