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California Community Colleges by the Numbers

March 11, 2021

El Camino College students Feb 2021, courtesy of California Community Colleges Chancellor's OfficeThe California Community Colleges (CCC) has been described as the backbone of higher education in California. But to measure its impact solely on a statewide scale does a disservice. In fact, the CCC is the leading provider of career and workforce training and the largest system of higher education in the nation.

Each year, more than 2.1 million students attend California’s 116 community colleges seeking to transfer to a four-year institution, earn a degree, or obtain career-specific training. In our continuing look at CCC services “by the numbers,” this month we highlight the system as a whole.

The data points below were obtained from the CCC Chancellor’s Office website. Additional information can be found here.

Economic Engine

  • Twenty-nine percent of University of California graduates and 51 percent of California State University graduates started at a community college.

  • Nearly half of students earning a bachelor’s degree from a UC campus in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) transferred from a California community college.

  • Students earning a degree or certificate from a California community college nearly double their earnings within three years.

  • Community colleges offer more than 200 career education pathways to address the skills gap identified by the Public Policy Institute of California. PPIC estimates California will face a shortage of 1 million holders of college degrees and certificates needed to fuel its workforce by 2025.

Serving a Vast Community

  • One in every four community college students in the U.S. attends a California community college.

  • The CCC serves a broad population. Based on the most recently published demographic data (2016-17), enrollment is more balanced across age groups than other higher education segments:
    • 26.8 percent — 20 or under
    • 30.9 percent — 21-24
    • 26.9 percent — 25-39
    • 15.4 percent — 40 and over

It’s interesting to note that, prior to 1984, there were no fees to attend a California community college. Since 2012, enrollment fees have remained flat at $46 per unit. Today, despite the rising cost of campus services, textbooks, and rents, California’s community colleges are the nation’s most affordable higher education option.

The CCC Technology Center and all of its staff members play a critical role in supporting the CCC Chancellor’s Office in its centralized leadership role for all 116 community colleges that serve students throughout the state.