A new study by the Center for an Urban Future shows that too many students arrive at City University of New York community college (CUNY) without the basic reading and math skills, requiring them to take developmental courses that cost just as much as a college course, but without gaining any credit towards a degree, writes Joseph De Avila at the Wall Street Journal.
The new report says that around half of all the city's community college students leave school before earning an associates or bachelor's degree, while only 28% get associates or bachelor's degrees within six years of enrollment.
A CUNY spokesman, Michael Arena, said in a statement that while the system made efforts to boost graduation rates, "almost four out of every five freshman who arrive at its community colleges with a high school degree require remediation in reading, writing or mathematics."
"The challenge is to replicate and scale up CUNY's proven strategies to improve community college graduation rates."
Attendance at the city's six community colleges has soared to 91,000 students, a 43% increase over the past decade, the report said.
Experts also indicate that the 91,000 students that are currently studying within the city's community college system are set to have an uphill road toward a degree, with the colleges struggling to provide the remedial and extra courses needed to complete school on such limited resources.
"Community colleges are probably the most underappreciated part of the education system, and not just in New York," said Jonathan Bowles, director of Center for an Urban Future.
The report highlighted the expense of the current system. Each community college dropout costs around $17,000 in federal and state financial aid and in city and state funding for running the community college system, the report found.
In its attempts to help new students earn high school diplomas and associate degrees, CUNY has launched a new hybrid public high school and community college in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, Pathways in Technology Early College High School.
"The main challenges are to have a solid foundation in algebra and literacy," said principal Rashid Davis.
CUNY plans to open its first new community college in decades. New Community College, near Bryant Park in Manhattan, will give each student a mentor.