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

  • Bridget Terry Long
  • Michal Kurlaender

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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14367.pdf
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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. 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.
  2. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 1998. "Propensity Score Matching Methods for Non-experimental Causal Studies," NBER Working Papers 6829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 2003. "Does Matching Overcome Lalonde's Critique of Nonexperimental Estimators?," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20035, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  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. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
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