Report: Technology not the answer to bolstering community college access

“The issue is not only that there are people being turned away from community colleges, but who it is that is being turned away,” Rhoades said. “The populations who [have been turned away] are often looking to for-profit colleges as an alternative.”

Paul Steenhausen, a  community college expert for the Legislative Analyst’s Office, said in the report that it’s not just adult students returning to education after years in the workforce who are being turned away from their local two-year colleges.

Recent high school graduates are told to look elsewhere, too.

“I liken it to an unfortunate game of musical chairs where there’s not enough chairs for participants and when the music stops, it’s the new guy every time who winds up without a seat,” Steenhausen said.

Numerous national surveys have documented an explosion in online course offerings across higher education in recent years, and a 2011 report from market research firm Ambient Insight projected the number of college students taking online college courses will equal the number of students who attend classes in a traditional classroom by 2015.

In three years, the report said, there will be more than 25 million postsecondary students taking at least one online course. But the more jarring statistic might be Ambient Insight’s projections for traditional courses.

The number of college students taking traditional face-to-face classes will plummet from 14.4 million in 2010 to 4.1 million in 2015, according to the report. And with the population of only-online students expected to triple during that time, so-called traditional learning will be level with online learning.