How Rich Are Community College Kids?

How Rich Are Community College Kids?

President Obama wants to make community college free for everyone who can maintain a 2.5 GPA. Naturally, there's been some debate over when programs like this should be universal instead of targeted toward the poor.

But just how rich are community college kids anyway? This is hardly a cross-section of the general population: Many Americans don't pursue higher ed at all (a fifth of us don't graduate high school on time, and a third of high-school grads don't enroll in college the next fall), and 60 percent of those who enroll go to four-year schools.

Here are some numbers from a 2011-12 survey, which I pulled from the National Center for Education Statistics. For comparison, in 2012 the poverty line for a family of four was about $23,000, the median household income was just above $51,000, and the median income for a family of four was around $75,000

Two-year schools do have a higher concentration of poorer students, but there are plenty of middle-class and even wealthy kids there too. 42 percent of public two-year students come from parents who earn at least $65,000.

The NCES also has numbers relevant to that 2.5 GPA requirement:

Yikes.

Also worth noting: Obama's plan could change these numbers, for example by making community college an easier choice for kids who are too poor -- or too unmotivated -- to enroll today, or by giving students (and schools) an incentive to keep GPAs above 2.5.

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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