Community colleges offer about half (51%) of all healthcare training programs at U.S. higher education institutions — far exceeding any other postsecondary sector — and confer more than one-third (36%) of the credentials, according to an opens in a new windowanalysis of federal data by the opens in a new window Community College Research Center at Columbia University.
Within some healthcare education programs, the percentage offered at community colleges is even greater: mental/social health (76%), clinical/medical laboratory science (69%), allied health (68%) and practical nursing (58%). The only healthcare program examined where another sector exceeds what community colleges offer was public health — public four-year institutions account for 46% of the programs and private, not-for-profit four-year institutions 31%, compared to community colleges’ 15%.
CCRC notes that 38% of registered nursing programs reside at community colleges, though the four-year, nonprofit sector collectively offers nearly half of the programs (27% at private, not-for-profits and 22% at public colleges and universities).
The study also examined the distribution of healthcare education awards — short-term and long-term certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees. Public two-year colleges conferred 36% of the credentials in the 2019-20 academic year, compared to 22% by private, for-profits and 21% by public four-year institutions.
The report observes a difference between the number of programs offered at community colleges and the number of conferred credentials, saying one explanation may be because of smaller enrollments at community colleges. It notes that many community colleges use work-based clinic sites, which can limit the size of enrollment.
Community colleges also had the highest percentage of graduates among several of the healthcare programs — allied health (diagnostic, intervention, treatment), clinical/medical laboratory sciences, mental/social health, health/medical prep and practical nursing. Private for-profits had higher numbers in programs such as allied health, dental support services and health/medical administrative.
Public four-year institutions had the highest percentages in registered nursing, health services/allied health and public health.
CCRC examined data from the U.S. Education Department’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems 2019-2020 survey. The report also explored community college healthcare award levels, racial/ethnic composition of community college healthcare program graduates and the association between healthcare credentials and entry-level wages.