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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bridget Terry Long & Michal Kurlaender, 2008. "Do Community Colleges provide a Viable Pathway to a Baccalaureate Degree?," NBER Working Papers 14367, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14367 Note: ED
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    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. 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.
    7. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 2002. "Propensity Score-Matching Methods For Nonexperimental Causal Studies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 151-161, February.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Duane E. Leigh & Andrew M. Gill, 2007. "Do Community Colleges Respond to Local Needs? Evidence from California," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number dcc.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert W. Fairlie & Samantha H. Grunberg, 2014. "Access To Technology And The Transfer Function Of Community Colleges: Evidence From A Field Experiment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(3), pages 1040-1059, July.
    2. John Jerrim & Anna Vignoles & Ross Finnie, 2012. "University access for disadvantaged children: A comparison across English speaking countries," DoQSS Working Papers 12-11, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
    3. Tommaso Agasisti & Samuele Murtinu, 2013. "Are we wasting public money? No! The effects of grants on Italian university students’ performances," Working Papers 2013/33, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    4. 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.
    5. Michael F. Lovenheim & C. Lockwood Reynolds, 2013. "The Effect of Housing Wealth on College Choice: Evidence from the Housing Boom," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 1-35.
    6. Lockwood Reynolds, C., 2012. "Where to attend? Estimating the effects of beginning college at a two-year institution," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 345-362.
    7. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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