COLLEGE
10/06/2014 06:34 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2014

'We Have Allowed Community Colleges To Become Separate And Unequal' (VIDEO)

Vladimir de Jesus is an art major at LaGuardia Community College in New York City. After six years in school, he still doesn't yet have an associate's degree.

In a new mini-documentary, the New York Times profiles de Jesus, 23, who the newspaper writes has amassed "fewer than half of the credits he needed to progress to a four-year college" in more than half a decade.

Of course, trouble with getting community college students to graduate isn't necessarily new.

The College Board reported in 2011 that "only 21 percent of those registered as degree-seeking completed associate degrees or certificates within 150 percent of the normal time." The American Enterprise Institute noted in a 2012 report that at community colleges only 1 in 4 students graduate, compared to 3 in 5 at four-year schools.

Complete College America has said one reason students spend so long in community college is due to students spending too much time accumulating credits they didn't need to get their degree. But community college students are also more likely to come from low-income backgrounds and be less academically prepared.

"We have homeless students, we have students who come hungry," Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, told the Times.

The reality is America isn't doing much to help community colleges serve students any better. According to a report released in 2012 by the U.S. Treasury Department, funding per student at community colleges has essentially remained flat for the past decade. The U.S. is spending a third of what it typically spends helping students go to wealthy schools like Brown University of the University of Michigan, Mellow explains.

"We have allowed community colleges to become separate and unequal," Mellow says.

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