About one in five among almost 1500 students interviewed as part of a national survey by Pearson Foundation revealed that it was difficult for them to get into at least one desired course in fall 2010, while a third reported that they had been unable to get a spot in a desired class.

The results indicate the growing stress on two-year colleges in the face of repeated budget cuts by states and steadily rising demands from a population grappling with unaffordable costs of a four-year college degree.

Community colleges have traditionally relied on state funding for a large share of students' costs given the low tuition fees that they command, and the present cuts in states' contributions mean that they will be forced to impose more stringent caps on enrolment and also raise fees.   

The Houston Chronicle, for example, reports that community colleges in Texas are preparing to raise tuition and cut thousands of potential enrolments to cope with sweeping reductions proposed in the draft budget from the State Senate, as lawmakers attempt to plug a massive revenue shortfall over the next two years. The Wall Street Journal also reports that the California community college system, which caters to almost 2.76 million students, could also be forced to turn away 350,000 students next year under severe cost constraints.

The Pearson study also finds that as classes get crowded, students are finding it increasingly difficult to get help when they need it. Close to 5 percent of students dropped out during the first weeks of the semester, while another 10 percent, of whom one in five said that they did not get the required help, seriously considered doing so. The relationships between the students and faculty also appear to be underdeveloped with three quarters among the drop-outs revealing that they never discussed the intention or decision to do so with an instructor or adviser.