Community College Expert Available to Talk about Obama Proposal

John Levin, who has studied community colleges for more than 25 years, calls the Obama proposal a good plan with promise to alter postsecondary education

John Levin, arms crossed

John Levin, a professor in the Graduate School of Education

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( —  John S. Levin, the director of the California Community College Collaborative at the University of California, Riverside, who has studied community colleges for more than 25 years, is available for interviews about the President’s proposal to provide free community college for all. Levin is also a professor of higher education at UC Riverside.

Here are some of his initial comments, which can be attributed to him:

“Clearly students who attend community colleges or intend to attend are the least economically well off in all of postsecondary education. My research has shown that there are millions of students in community colleges—both in credit and noncredit programs—who are at-risk of leaving college because of financial hardships. These include large numbers of adult students, of whom a large proportion are single mothers. Almost all community college students’ work, and the large majority work 20 hours or more a week, with close to 50 percent working near full-time. The work requirement is a financial necessity. Students who work over 30 hours a week have less than a 50 percent chance of continuing their studies past a year, whether full-time or part-time studies.

“While tuition alone is not the main economic hardship for millions of students and would-be students at community colleges, the steady rise over decades in the “sticker-price” of attendance has served as a barrier to educational and training participation. The promise of reduced or no tuition costs for students is a good sign as long as it is not accompanied by decreases in federal and state grants to community colleges and their students. As well, as long as the promise is not given to special groups of students—recent high school graduates, full-time students, and those in credit programs only—then there will be a condition of fairness, if the promise applies to all students in all states.

“Free-tuition for all has the potential to alter not only postsecondary education participation rates but also postsecondary education program completion rates. The Obama graduation initiative will move forward if community college students can be relieved of economic hardships.”

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