Methods for Gauging the Target Populations That Community Colleges Serve

Published In: Population Research and Policy Review, v. 26, no. 1, 2007, p. 51-67

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2007

by Lucrecia Santibanez, Peter A. Morrison, Stephen J. Carroll

For many community colleges, expanding enrollment demands coincide with shrinking resources, confronting policymakers with multiple competing constituencies of discouraged college-goers. At issue are whether community college enrollments are keeping pace with local growth among the subpopulations that typically attend community colleges; how enrollment levels might differ had participation rates remained unchanged; and which specific population groups, in which subareas of an overall region, are most affected by funding constraints. These issues focus attention on identifying and measuring the diverse populations such colleges serve. We present methods for tracking those populations (1) to gauge how completely (or incompletely) the local community college-going population is enrolling in various campuses, and (2) to delineate the functional service areas of individual campuses. Our methods have applicability to the needs of community college systems generally, especially where the size and geographic distribution of their populations are changing significantly through, for example, immigrant influx and regional expansion. These methods and measures add to the applied demographer's repertoire of techniques for strengthening local decision-making.

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