New Survey Reveals Twice as Many California Community College Students Are Closed Out of Courses than the National Average

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First-of-its-kind study reports student perceptions as economic difficulties and rising demand strain vital college systems

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As rising demand and declining budgets continue to strain community college systems across the United States, the results of a new survey underscore the economy's impact on students in California. The state's students are finding fewer courses available at their local community colleges, and they are competing with greater numbers of their peers for the precious few enrollment spots. In the first survey of its kind, almost one out of every three California community college students experienced difficulty enrolling in courses that they needed during the fall 2010 semester, compared to one out of six students in the rest of the U.S.

The Pearson Foundation Community College Student Survey, conducted online in the fall of 2010 by Harris Interactive, was commissioned specifically to better understand the keys to success for community college students. The survey was conducted among 1,434 current or recent U.S. community college students aged 18 to 59, 260 of whom were enrolled in California colleges. Their perception is an important first step in maintaining and improving quality education for all.

The survey found that almost twice as many California students (47 percent) compared to the rest of the U.S. (28 percent) have been unable to enroll in courses because they were full. About four in 10 California students surveyed (41 percent) enrolled in fewer courses than they had originally planned on taking, compared to about three in 10 students from the rest of the U.S. (28 percent). Students in California and across the country generally cited their struggles with courses or their difficulty in balancing continued academic study with family and work obligations, but more California community college students placed an emphasis on course availability as a key to success - 19 percent in California versus 8 percent in the rest of the U.S.

Similar to community college students from the rest of the U.S., about one in 10 California community college students surveyed had dropped out or had seriously considered dropping out of school.

"Community colleges are pivotal in the Obama Administration's plans to increase the number of U.S. college graduates," said Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation. "This survey gives voice to the student population at the center of this effort and helps us all to better understand their needs, and their frame of mind, as they begin their college careers."

In addition to these key findings, the survey also underscored the growing demand among California students for online learning: Close to 60 percent of the community college students surveyed reported having taken at least one course online, and 36 percent said they would like to take all of their courses online. However, students in California community colleges are more likely than the rest of the U.S. to take their courses in person (64 percent vs. 54 percent).

Other key findings include:

  • California students are more likely to value having access to academic advisors (65 percent in California, 55 percent of students in the rest of the U.S.).
  • Students in California also place more value on establishing relationships with other students (41 percent in California, 31 percent in the rest of the country).

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Pearson Foundation between September 27 and November 4, 2010, among 1,434 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 59 who were enrolled in a U.S. community college, pursuing at least one course for college credit at any point between August 1, 2010, and the time the survey was taken. Included in the 1,434 total were 260 respondents who attended community college in California. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available upon request.

About the Pearson Foundation
The Pearson Foundation extends Pearson's (NYSE:PSO) commitment to education by partnering with leading nonprofit, civic, and business organizations to provide financial, organizational, and publishing assistance across the globe. The Foundation aims to make a difference by sponsoring innovative educational programs and extending its educational expertise to help in classrooms and in local communities. More information on the Pearson Foundation can be found at

Media Contact: Stacey Finkel, (703) 304-1377, stacey(dot)finkel(at)pearsonfoundation(dot)org
Media Contact: Susan Aspey, (800) 745-8489, susan(dot)aspey(at)pearson(dot)com

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through its North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent research firms, Harris Interactive specializes in delivering research solutions that help Harris - and its clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, visit


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