Family Incomes Fall While Admission Requirements Rise: Implications for Community Colleges

Richard Torraco, Dave Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Median family incomes in the United States are falling while admissions requirements for community colleges are rising. The purpose of this paper was to call attention to the predicament faced by low-income and academically underprepared students aspiring to complete community college programs in this environment and the implications for community college leaders. Average family incomes in the U.S. have fallen for the third year in a row, with poverty at 15.1% and 46.5 million people living in poverty conditions. Rising income inequality between the wealthy and the poor contributes to the persistence of working poor families in the U.S. Reversing the trend of increasing income inequality and reducing the poverty rate are difficult. However, education has always been a way in which upward mobility for the disadvantaged can get started. Community colleges in particular have a strong tradition of serving low-income and academically underprepared students. But community colleges are now struggling to maintain their tradition of open access in the push for academic and fiscal accountability. Some colleges are shifting to serve better prepared students. What effects are these changes having on the types of students and programs at community colleges? We examined this issue and the implications for community college leaders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-801
Number of pages5
JournalCommunity College Journal of Research and Practice
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Cite this