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Do Community Colleges provide a Viable Pathway to a Baccalaureate Degree?

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  • Bridget Terry Long
  • Michal Kurlaender

Abstract

Community colleges have become an important entryway for students intending to complete a baccalaureate degree. However, many question the viability of the transfer function and wonder whether students suffer a penalty for starting at a two-year institution. This paper examines how the outcomes of community college entrants compare to similar students who initially entered four-year institutions within the Ohio public higher education system. Using a detailed dataset, we track outcomes for nine years and employ multiple strategies to deal with selection issues: propensity score matching and instrumental variables. The results suggest that straightforward estimates are significantly biased, but even after accounting for selection, students who initially begin at a community college were 14.5 percent less likely to complete a bachelor's degree within nine years.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14367.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Publication status: published as Long, B. T. and Michal Kurlaender. (2009) “Do Community Colleges provide a Viable Pathway to a Baccalaureate Degree?” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 31(1): 30-53.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14367

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  1. Hilmer, Michael J., 1998. "Post-secondary fees and the decision to attend a university or a community college," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 329-348, March.
  2. Terry Long, B.Bridget, 2004. "How have college decisions changed over time? An application of the conditional logistic choice model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 271-296.
  3. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1998. "Do two-year colleges increase overall educational attainment? Evidence from the states," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(4), pages 595-620.
  4. Denis Conniffe & Vanessa Gash & Philip J. O'Connell, 2000. "Evaluating State Programmes - “Natural Experiments” and Propensity Scores," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 31(4), pages 283-308.
  5. A. Smith, Jeffrey & E. Todd, Petra, 2005. "Does matching overcome LaLonde's critique of nonexperimental estimators?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 305-353.
  6. Surette, Brian J., 2001. "Transfer from two-year to four-year college: an analysis of gender differences," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 151-163, April.
  7. Audrey Light & Wayne Strayer, 2000. "Determinants of College Completion: School Quality or Student Ability?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(2), pages 299-332.
  8. Hilmer, Michael J., 1997. "Does community college attendance provide a strategic path to a higher quality education?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 59-68, February.
  9. Norton Grubb, W., 1995. "Postsecondary education and the sub-baccalaureate labor market: Corrections and extensions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 285-299, September.
  10. Dehejia, R.H. & Wahba, S., 1998. "Propensity Score Matching Methods for Non-Experimental Causal Studies," Discussion Papers 1998_02, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  11. Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Democratization or Diversion? The Effect of Community Colleges on Educational Attainment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 217-24, April.
  12. Ehrenberg, Ronald G. & Smith, Christopher L., 2004. "Analyzing the success of student transitions from 2- to 4-year institutions within a state," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 11-28, February.
  13. Kane, Thomas J & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Labor-Market Returns to Two- and Four-Year College," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 600-614, June.
  14. Roberto Agodini & Mark Dynarski, 2004. "Are Experiments the Only Option? A Look at Dropout Prevention Programs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 180-194, February.
  15. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 1998. "Causal Effects in Non-Experimental Studies: Re-Evaluating the Evaluation of Training Programs," NBER Working Papers 6586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Leigh, D. E. & Gill, A. M., 2003. "Do community colleges really divert students from earning bachelor's degrees?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 23-30, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Elliott, William & Friedline, Terri, 2013. "“You pay your share, we’ll pay our share”: The college cost burden and the role of race, income, and college assets," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 134-153.
  2. Saul Geiser and Richard C. Atkinson, 2010. "BEYOND THE MASTER PLAN: The Case for Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt19d0t1gn, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.

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