Noncredit Research Collaborative

Adjusting College Costs for Noncredit Enrollments: An Issue for Data Geeks or Policymakers?


Objective: In the first study of its kind, the impact of excluding noncredit enrollments in calculations of spending in community colleges is explored. Noncredit enrollments are not reported to Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), but expenditures for these efforts are. This study corrects for this omission and provides new estimates of spending on community college students in four states. Method: Data on noncredit enrollments were made available from four states—New York, New Jersey, California, and North Carolina. Interviews with campus and state officials within each state helped us verify the findings. In addition, Delta Cost Project data were analyzed and adjusted to account for noncredit enrollments. Results: Our analysis indicates that the expenditure per full-time equivalent (FTE) student measure, which researchers typically use, seriously overstates the resources that community colleges have to spend on educating students; however, great variations exist within and across states. Conclusion: Community colleges are underfunded to an even greater extent than standard IPEDS analyses indicate.