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ERIC Number: ED544620
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 28
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 46
The Community College Penalty and Bachelor's Degree Completion: Fact or Fiction? Policy Research: IERC 2013-1
Lichtenberger, Eric J.; Dietrich, Cecile
Illinois Education Research Council
Rationale: Research examining the relationship between initial community college enrollment and bachelor's completion have shown mixed results with some studies indicating a clear penalty for community college enrollment and other studies showing no penalty, partly due to the point at which the given study began tracking the community college students: at initial community college entrance or after vertical transfer to a four-year college. We adopted the latter view while simultaneously controlling for student background characteristics, as well as high school and college contexts. Purpose: To examine the impact of taking the community college to four-year transfer pathway on bachelor's degree completion. Methods: Data sources: Data from ACT and the National Student Clearinghouse specific to the Illinois public high school graduating class of 2003. Postsecondary outcomes were nationally tracked from 2003 through 2010. Participants: Prior to propensity score matching, 23,676 high school graduates who matriculated to college were followed over seven academic years: included 2,154 community college transfer students and 21,522 four-year rising juniors. Research Design: Quantitative and quasi-experimental; nearest neighbor propensity score matching with a post-treatment adjustment. Matching with replacement was used. Analysis: Estimates of treatment effect made by matching community college transfers with observationally equivalent rising four-year college juniors graduating from the same high schools and attending equally selective four-year colleges. Findings: Prior to matching, the academic profile of the community college transfer students was significantly weaker from that of the rising four-year college juniors. 85% of the community college transfer students identified in the study had earned a bachelor's degree within five academic years of transitioning to a four-year college. No community college penalty was evident. Community college transfer students were just as likely to complete a bachelor's degree as rising four-year college juniors when matching on key factors. Policy Implications: The community college to four-year pathway is a viable option for many students in terms of bachelor's degree completion. As a result, policymakers should (1) continue to develop baseline information about statewide transfer performance as the state's longitudinal data system is fully implemented (Wellman, 2002); (2) set goals for institutional performance related to community college to four-year transfer (Wellman, 2002); and (3) help community college transfer students face their financial aid future by developing information and incentives that fully span their undergraduate enrollment from a community college to a four-year institution (Wellman, 2002; Handel, 2011). (Contains 6 figures, 2 tables, and an appendix.)
Illinois Education Research Council. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Campus Box 1064, Edwardsville, IL 62026. Tel: 866-799-4372; Tel: 618-650-2840; Fax: 618-650-2425; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Two Year Colleges; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Southern Illinois University, Illinois Education Research Council
Identifiers - Location: Illinois