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The Trouble With Community Colleges

I occasionally have the opportunity to review books for National Journal magazine, and my most recent endeavor took me deep into the operations of community colleges. It offered a sobering explanation of why they don’t really work.

Thomas R. Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Davis Jenkins argue in “Redesigning America’s Community Colleges” (Harvard University Press, April 2015) that these two-year schools have only partly succeeded in their mission of serving almost anyone who wants a college degree. They are great at enrolling students, particularly people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are not so great at making sure they come out with anything to show for it. More than 60 percent of students who enroll in a community college exit after six years without any type of degree or certificate. They have wasted their time and money.