Community Colleges Forge Non-Tuition Revenue Streams

By Staff

As state funding for public colleges shrinks, community colleges are continually looking for ways to keep budgets afloat while remaining affordable for students. One way some community colleges have found to do this is by offering training to corporations.

Inside Higher Ed reports that Arizona covers less than 1 percent of the budget for the Maricopa Community College District. The 10-college system, which enrolls 265,000 students, now receives an annual state contribution of $8 million.

One upside to Arizona’s near-complete disinvestment in its community colleges, Maricopa’s leaders say, is that the years of budget cuts have forced the two-year system to get more entrepreneurial. They are particularly excited about the money-making potential of the new Maricopa Corporate College, which landed Marriott International as a client in its first year of existence.

Rufus Glasper, the district’s chancellor, told Inside Higher Ed that corporate CEOs have picked up on a shift at Maricopa.
“We’re starting to market ourselves as a business,” he said.

Corporate colleges cater to the training needs of companies, including recent hires and workers who need to learn new skills. Programs are typically non-credit and customized based on the employer’s needs. They can be online or in person, and taught either on a college campus or taken directly to a company. Some of the most common programs are in management training, English as a second language, information technology, advanced manufacturing and welding.

The training centers can be lucrative, with companies typically footing the bill rather than students. As a result, the corporate-college field is getting more crowded. For-profit chains have long done job training. And Udacity, an online course provider, now wants to get in the game. Several community colleges also have a solid track record with corporate training. Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), located in Ohio, North Carolina’s Central Piedmont College and the Lone Star College System in Texas are pioneers of corporate colleges.

Yet two-year institutions face a challenge in competing for corporate clients that have a national footprint. The colleges typically have a strong regional focus, and struggle to deliver training outside of their locale.