Are community colleges efficient?

The answer is no, according to a recent study by the state Program Evaluation Oversight Committee. Here’s what they found:

• While North Carolina’s 58 community colleges were established to meet community needs, their independence challenges administrative efficiency. Colleges vary widely in size. They lack common policies, procedures and administrative structures.

• Small colleges have higher administrative costs than larger ones. Estimated administrative costs at the 58 colleges ranged from $447 to $1,679 per student. Analysis revealed colleges with fewer than 3,000 students were significantly more costly to administer.

• Merging colleges could reduce costs and increase administrative efficiency.

• North Carolina’s community colleges have failed to take full advantage of their purchasing power. Colleges are missing out on opportunities to use their combined power to get better pricing from existing vendors.

• Merging 15 colleges with fewer than 3,000 students could save up to $5.1 million in administrative costs annually and up to $3.5 million in additional savings.

• A purchasing consortiums for community colleges could save another $1.8 million could be realized over seven years.

So what’s the solution?

Here’s the committee’s recommendations on how to solve community college effiency:

1) Reduce the number of small colleges by merging colleges with fewer than 3,000 students with another nearby college.  

2) Establish a unit to develop and maintain purchasing consortiums for community colleges.

Total savings over seven years: $26.2 million.

How would it work?

Based on a review of community college structures in other states, a joint state legislative committee on governmental efficiency identified three merger options that could improve the efficiency of community college administration without affecting student access:

• Reduce the number of community colleges by creating multi-campus colleges.

• Create a regional system of community colleges.

• Centralize all community colleges in North Carolina.

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