California expenditures on such students over five years totaled $480 million, report says. Many students are ill-prepared for college, get too little support and aren't helped by remediation, the study notes.
California and other states are spending billions of tax dollars on community college students who drop out before completing their studies, according to a report released Thursday.
The report by the nonprofit American Institutes for Research found that from 2004 to 2009, federal, state and local governments spent nearly $4 billion on full-time community college students who dropped out after their first year.
In California, expenditures on such students over the five-year period totaled $480 million, far more than any other state.
The report highlights a nationwide trend of increasing community college enrollment and spending but declining completion rates at the same time that state funding for higher education has dropped.
"These kinds of numbers say to states like California that our taxpayers are on the hook for substantial amounts of money and they are not getting an adequate amount of return," said Mark Schneider, a vice president at the research center who wrote the report.
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The report did not study the reasons for the low rate of success but noted that many students are ill-prepared for college, receive too few support services and are not helped by remediation.
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Steve Boilard, director of higher education at the state Legislative Analyst's Office, noted that even when students drop out, not all money spent on their education is necessarily wasted. But the report raises important questions about lost potential, he said.
"The hard job is not demonstrating that lots of community college students don't achieve meaningful education goals, or that money is wasted; the hard part is changing those facts," he said.
• High cost of first-year community college dropouts (SFChronicle)