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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
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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. Soo-yong Byun & Judith L. Meece & Charlotte A. Agger, 2017. "Predictors of College Attendance Patterns of Rural Youth," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 58(8), pages 817-842, December.
    3. Natalia A. Kolesnikova, 2010. "Community colleges and economic mobility," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 92(Jan), pages 27-54.
    4. Joshua Hyman, 2017. "Does Money Matter in the Long Run? Effects of School Spending on Educational Attainment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 256-280, November.
    5. Scott E. Carrell & Michal Kurlaender, 2016. "Estimating the Productivity of Community Colleges in Paving the Road to Four-Year Success," NBER Working Papers 22904, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Eleanor Wiske Dillon & Jeffrey Andrew Smith, 2013. "The Determinants of Mismatch Between Students and Colleges," NBER Working Papers 19286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Declercq, Koen & Verboven, Frank, 2018. "Enrollment and degree completion in higher education without admission standards," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 223-244.
    8. Andrews, Rodney & Li, Jing & Lovenheim, Michael F., 2014. "Heterogeneous paths through college: Detailed patterns and relationships with graduation and earnings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 93-108.
    9. Joshua Goodman & Michael Hurwitz & Jonathan Smith, "undated". "Access to Four-Year Public Colleges and Degree Completion," Working Paper 175226, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    10. 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.
    11. Peter Arcidiacono & Michael Lovenheim, 2016. "Affirmative Action and the Quality-Fit Trade-Off," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 3-51, March.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Jonathan Smith & Kevin Stange, 2016. "A New Measure of College Quality to Study the Effects of College Sector and Peers on Degree Attainment," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 11(4), pages 369-403, Fall.
    15. Johnson, Eric & Reynolds, C. Lockwood, 2013. "The effect of household hospitalizations on the educational attainment of youth," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 165-182.
    16. John Jerrim & Anna Vignoles & Ross Finnie, 2012. "University access for disadvantaged children: A comparison across English speaking countries," DoQSS Working Papers 12-11, Quantitative Social Science - UCL Social Research Institute, University College London.
    17. Scott E. Carrell & Michal Kurlaender, 2018. "Estimating the Productivity of Community Colleges in Paving the Road to Four-Year College Success," NBER Chapters, in: Productivity in Higher Education, pages 291-315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Nicholas A. Bowman & Michael N. Bastedo, 2018. "What Role May Admissions Office Diversity and Practices Play in Equitable Decisions?," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 59(4), pages 430-447, June.
    19. 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).
    20. 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.
    21. Goodman, Joshua & Hurwitz, Michael & Smith, Jonathan, 2015. "College Access, Initial College Choice and Degree Completion," Working Paper Series rwp14-030, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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    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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