Policy Recommendation : Solving the Challenge of Limited Access of Community College Education

  1. Scope of Limited Access to Community College Education as a Policy Concern

    1. Limited Access to Community College Education

Presently, the American media is awash with news, analyses, and views regarding President Obama’s take on how the US should tackle the challenge of limited access to college education. The number of Americans who qualify for training at community colleges is growing rather rapidly each passing year. As well, the number of Americans who qualify for training at community colleges but are unable to access them is growing pretty rapidly each succeeding year. Especially, the number of young people from minority populations who are not capable of accessing the training at the two-year colleges is worrying (Gray, Rolph & Melamid, 1996). Such populations are defined by lack of the requisite resources to pay for education at the colleges.

Demographic changes and dynamics in the US make the lack of access to the colleges an issue of marked priority. There have calls for governments and other bodies to explore policy-based means to ensure that ensure that the colleges and the education they offer are more and more affordable. Such calls are related to the ones for the reduction of student debt. Some of the commonly proposed legislative ways of reducing the debt include the constraining of tuition fees or even their freezing (Baum & Payea, 2004). Most community colleges may further make their accessibility more challenging by offering four-year courses culminating in the award of degrees. Especially, Florida and Michigan-located community colleges have made significant progress in pushing state legislatures to allow them offer particular four-year courses in given areas.

The young people facing the highest hurdles in accessing education in the community colleges are the ones from minority communities. Others are the young people who are under-prepared with respect to taking up the education. Others are the young people families in the low-income band. The factors associated with their limited access to the education include reducing state education aid, ineffective college-readiness standards, and the governments’ divestment from developmental remediation and education. Notably, many students require the remediation and education.

  1. Affected Constituencies and Stakeholders

  1. Americans of College-Going Age and Their Families

Almost all young people of a community college-going age in America are faced with the potential for missing out on opportunities to learn in the colleges. The young people are presently compelled to do with a limited access to college education. As earlier noted, the young people facing the highest hurdles in accessing education in the community colleges are the ones from minority communities. Others are the young people who are under-prepared with respect to taking up the education. Others are the young people whose families are in the low-income band. In many instances, the families consider community college education to be rather costlier than high school education.

Some of the young people have concerns with the duration they are required to spend attending classes in the colleges (Gray, Rolph & Melamid, 1996). Most of them are desirous of being allowed to attend just a fraction of the required class sessions and yet qualify for graduation. The families would welcome government assistance to cater for the fees that their children are supposed to pay to colleges. There are many of the families that do not benefit from the renowned Pell Grant, thus having their children constrained to attend the cheaper community colleges rather than universities and colleges offering four-year trainings of education.

Most students going to college in America are burdened by high student debts. Such students are facing difficulties in clearing their extant debts. Such students usually call for policy changes that can allow them to enjoy the benefits of the PAYE (Pay as You Earn) program. The program especially caps the payments of loans at exactly 10% of an individual’s income. The students also commonly call on federal authorities to have the DOE (Department of Education) compound its efforts towards informing persons with student debts on the options of debt repayment that are available to them (McDonough, 2006; Vargas, 2004).

  1. Community College Districts and Community Colleges

Community college districts have severally expressed the concern that the increasing of government aid to students to cover their tuition costs is likely to roll back their roles. Therefore, they are likely to be quite vocal in debates regarding how access to college education can be expanded in the country (Gray, Rolph & Melamid, 1996). Notably, various states depend on the districts to cover various college costs while others fund the colleges via centralized structures.

The funding of the colleges by state government or even federal authorities is likely to lessen the funding disparities across college districts. Districts that manage community colleges are concerned that increased government support to the students going to community colleges will see the number of students enrolling in the colleges go up significantly, requiring the recruitment of more and more instructors to teach them. The colleges will require procuring additional resources like extra classrooms. If the government offers to peg the aid it gives to the colleges to a certain percentage of what their students pay, the colleges will be markedly motivated to review their tuition demands upwards.

  1. Federal Government and State Governments

Presently, the federal government, as well as state governments, extends support to those attending community colleges in form of either grants or loans. The support is aimed at expanding the colleges’ accessibility. The likely increase of students attending the colleges owing to the increment of the support is likely to compel localities and states to invest in costly capital building schemes aimed at expanding the colleges’ physical capacities. The localities and states may cut back on the support they currently offer to the students to finance the building schemes (Institute for Higher Education, 2005).

As well, the recommended policy changes will find their way into state legislatures and the Congress for debate and possible approval. Legislators at diverse governance levels are mandated to debate and possibly approve government policies, especially the ones with implications on government spending. Often, the opinions of the legislators are informed by the positions taken by their political parties. Thus, the federal government, as well as state governments, is supposed to lobby the legislators and parties to approve its preferred policy on expanding the accessibility of community colleges.

  • Relevant Political Institutions

As earlier noted, various political institutions are pertinent to policy discussions, as well as debates, as regards the possible ways of expanding the accessibility of community colleges. The federal political institutions relevant to the discussions, as well as debates, include the presidency and the political parties with a federal reach. As noted earlier, frequently, the opinions of the legislators are informed by the positions taken by their political parties (McDonough, 2006; Vargas, 2004). Thus, the presidency and state governors are supposed to lobby Congressmen legislators and state legislators and parties to approve its preferred policy on expanding the accessibility of community colleges. The most influential parties that can have marked influence on the discussions, as well as debates, include the Democratic Party along with the Republican Party (Baum & Payea, 2004).

  1. Relevance of Issue to Federal Government Along with State Governments

The policy issue of limited accessibility of community colleges is relevant to both the state and federal levels of government. Both levels are concerned that the number of Americans who qualify for training at community colleges is growing rather rapidly each passing year (Lerner & Brand, 2006). As well, the two levels are concerned that the number of Americans who meet the criteria for training at community colleges but are unable to access them is growing pretty quickly each subsequent year. As noted earlier, at present, the federal government, as well as state governments, extends support to those attending community colleges in form of either grants or loans. The support is aimed at expanding the accessibility. State parliaments are especially worried about student debt and college affordability. Some have demanded tuition freezes or constraints in the recent past (Gray, Rolph & Melamid, 1996).

  1. Cost of the Issue

The proposal fronted by President Obama to peg the government aid aimed at expanding the accessibility of community colleges to their performance is estimated to cost the US about $60 billion in its first decade of implementation. It will assist around nine million learners in the colleges or about to join them. The costs that the American taxpayer has incurred in the past regarding the expansion of the accessibility include the rise of the maximum awardable Pell Grants by over $900 per family and the implementation of the AOTC (American Opportunity Tax Credit).

On average, a person who funds own college education via loans has an accumulated debt of at least $26,000 when he or she finally graduates. Defaults of student loans are rising rapidly across the US. The total amount of university and college student support that the federal government gives out is in excess of $150 billion annually. The corresponding amount with respect to state governments is $70 billion.

  1. Proposed Policies

    1. Federal Aid To Students To Be Pegged On College Performance

President Obama has proposed that there should be a policy change to make certain that federal aid to students to be pegged on college performance to enhance the accessibility of community colleges. He holds that the proposal will help reduce the heightening college costs and increase community colleges’ affordability significantly. His policy proposal is to determine community college performance via a structured ratings system. The information provided by the system will help families and students select community colleges that perform exceptionally well. The Congress will be tying the aid to the performance of particular community colleges. That will ensure that students optimize their federal support at community colleges with excellent performance while paying federally-subsidized fees.

  1. Governments Enhance the Funds Committed to the Current College Loan Kits

Currently, the federal government and each state runs a community college student loan fund aimed at enhancing the accessibility of community colleges (McDonough, 2006; Vargas, 2004). As noted earlier, presently, the total amount of university and college student support that the state governments give out is in excess of $70 billion annually. The total amount of university and college student support that the federal government gives out is in excess of $150 billion annually. The governments can see the accessibility increase significantly through policy changes enabling them to increase the amounts of public funds they commit to the community college student loan fund and encouraging the uptake of the loans by those attending the colleges (Institute for Higher Education, 2005).

  • Increased Federal Aid To Students Pegged On College Student Population

The federal government gives aid to community colleges based on their student enrollments. The aid is aimed at enhancing the accessibility of community colleges, reducing the mounting college costs, and increasing the colleges’ affordability considerably. The government determines the aid to give to each of the colleges based on the number of students it serves in any given year. The governments significantly enhance the accessibility by increasing the aid after making the requisite policy change (Gray, Rolph & Melamid, 1996).

 

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