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Study: Community College Drop-Outs Cost Ohio $29 Million

A new study says drop-outs from Ohio's community colleges cost state taxpayers more than 29-million dollars during a recent 5 year period. The study comes as enrollment at Columbus State and other in community colleges grows rapidly. The report: "The Hidden Costs of Community Colleges"  says, on average, one out of five community college freshman drop out during or after their first year of school.  At Columbus State Community College, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Jack Cooley, says the findings mirror figures kept at the school. "And its a problem that all of us have recognized we need to address now." The  study counts the number of community college students who left school after their first year and then calculates the federal, state, and local taxpayer money spent on those students. Between 2004 and 2009, the study concludes that taxpayers spent more  than $29,000,000 on Ohio drop-outs.  Study co-author Michelle Yin  says the study was done in part to bring more accountability to community colleges. "Many of us who work in educational policies were never really aware the fact that it really cost a lot for students who drop out of colleges." Says Michelle Yin. Columbus State  enrolls 30,000 students and is the largest community college in Ohio.  Its enrollment has grown by more than 50 percent over the past 15 years.  The school's  freshman dropout rate is 18%- a figure the study says costs taxpayers $1,800,000 "I think reports like these will raise more awareness, or raise more attention, or bring attention to these politicians to realize how important it is to spend our money wisely." Yin says. And,  Columbus State and some other community colleges push back at some of the study's findings. They say some of the  the drop-outs later return to school. And, Cooley  says access to college is the school's primary goal. He denies the school recruits students solely on the basis that federal and state monies are available to help students pay for college. "No, I think we recruit students because we regard it as our mission to assist and educate every student in Central Ohio who needs access to higher education." Says Cooley. Other studies have shown that 2-year community colleges often have lower freshman retention rates than 4-year colleges.  Cooley  says by some measures up to 90 percent of students entering community colleges need remedial courses and that contributes to the higher drop out rate. But Cooley and other Columbus State officials argue any amount of education helps the community .They cite  regional economic studies which indicate taxpayers see a 15% return on the money spent to educate their students. Mainly, because students often get higher-paying jobs even if they complete only part of a college curriculum. Still, Cooley says Columbus State is adopting programs to boost its retention rate for first year students. For example: "Increasing the amount of tutoring.  We're increasing the preparation levels for students. We're helping them move through in cohorts where they encourage one another. We're using students to assist other students." "The Hidden Costs of Community Colleges"  was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was published by the non-profit, American Institutes for Research in Washington D.C. Tom Borgerding WOSU News