NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

Bridget Terry Long, Michal Kurlaender

NBER Working Paper No. 14367
Issued in September 2008
NBER Program(s):   ED

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14367

Published: 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.

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