Community colleges, long regarded as the most accessible realm of higher education, are becoming more difficult to access thanks to record enrollments combined with belt-tightening by state legislatures.

In a survey to be released Wednesday by the Pearson Foundation, a nonprofit educational think tank in Mill Valley, Calif., about 20% of 1,434 community college students interviewed in November reported difficulty enrolling in required courses for the fall semester. About one in three had trouble winning a spot in desired classes.

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