Community Colleges

Make College Accessible

June 26, 2014  • Josh Wyner

Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the New York Times on June 27th, 2014 on page A28.


To the Editor:
“The Reality of Student Debt Is Different From the Clichés,” by David Leonhardt (The Upshot, June 24), makes an important point: The national concern about student debt may center on the wrong aspect of the problem. But there is a problem.


As middle-class wages have stagnated and college costs escalated, higher education opportunity has become increasingly stratified. Every year, college students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to attend open-access institutions — especially community colleges — where graduation rates are lowest, and less likely to attend the most selective colleges and universities, where nearly everyone graduates.


Surely, one cause is the rising cost of four-year colleges and universities. The promise of social mobility in the United States will depend on creating solutions to this challenge: increasing performance of open-access colleges, making selective colleges more accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income students, and fixing the broken transfer pipeline between community colleges and universities.


Our country has a lot to do to make sure that higher education affords opportunity to everyone willing to put in the hard work, and while a worthy goal, lowering graduates’ debt won’t solve the problem.



Washington, June 25, 2014

The writer, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, is the author of “What Excellent Community Colleges Do: Preparing All Students for Success.”