In an economy where low-income and middle-class Long Islanders face stifling household budget inflation, rising gas and food prices, a looming recession, and a hand Where nearly 40,000 pre-pandemic jobs have not returned, the region’s two community colleges are facing existential enrollment and financial threats to their operations.
As Long Island emerged from the Great Recession around 2011, enrollment at Suffolk County Community College, New York State’s largest community college, fell 23% to 20,570, while at New York’s largest campus York, Nassau Community College enrollment fell 46% to 12,631. Additionally, with tuition frozen for the past three years at SCCC and the past two years at NCC, the result has put financial pressure on colleges. two educational institutions and, by extension, potential financial pressure on Suffolk and Nassau counties, which each contribute about one-third of each community college’s budget.
While enrollment is critical, especially where college-aged students on Long Island have declined 9.2% since 2010, retention has been problematic for years and graduation remains a challenge for CSC and the NCC. According to 2022 data compiled by the Community College Review, 29.38% of first-time full-time students completed their studies at a community college statewide, while for SCCC, the completion rate was 27.18% and 23.44% for the NCC. Also, the retention rate at SCCC is 68% while NCC only retains 60% of its students. The picture becomes bleaker when considering inflationary economics through the lens of student retention research I conducted for CNC several years ago.
What was examined were the socio-economic characteristics of students enrolled at CNC who graduated or transferred to a college or university versus the characteristics of students who did not graduate. The goal was to improve student retention by identifying characteristics that could serve as reliable predictors of dropping out or non-retention, defined by not graduating or not transferring to a four-year institution. We looked at median student household income; household income levels in the student’s home community; tuition assistance program eligibility; eligibility for Pell Grants; enrolled in remedial or basic education classes; and Census data by educational attainment postal codes. Important information has been uncovered.
Significant differences were revealed between those who graduated or transferred and non-graduates with non-graduates enrolled in remedial courses and coming from ZIP codes of higher household poverty levels. These students typically attended community college on a part-time basis, which made them ineligible for Pell grants or TAP. Money was a problem as it is today. Among the non-graduates were 18-year-old men, first time in college, black and Hispanic, who accounted for a significantly higher enrollment rate in remedial education. Additionally, GED recipients who did not have a degree outnumbered GED recipients who graduated or transferred four times.
Strong associations also existed between lack of persistence among students who did not graduate or transfer and those who were Pell Grant recipients and tested in the remedial and education classes of base. Stronger associations existed between non-persistent Pell grant recipients and communities with higher levels of household poverty income. In addition, catch-up level and enrollment in basic education were predictors of non-graduates.
As Long Island households grapple with inflation and the regional workforce struggles to return to pre-pandemic levels, community colleges are needed more than ever to prepare the future workforce. of Long Island by enrolling, retaining and graduating its students.
Martin Cantor is director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy and
former Suffolk County Economic Development Commissioner. He can be reached at