Starting out at community college works out well for academically prepared students

by Grace

This might be good news for those who start their four-year degree program at a community college to save money.  If you’re among the 25-40% of community college students who actually make the transition to four-year colleges, your chances of degree attainment compare favorably with those students who started as freshmen there.  However, this is only true if you are similar to the rising juniors in terms of academic preparation and other characteristics.  The average community college student still lags behind in graduation rates.  Overall, these new study results are not too surprising.

… Authors Tatiana Melguizo, Gregory S. Kienzl and Mariana Alfonso present what may be good news for such students in their article, Comparing the Educational Attainment of Community College Transfer Students and Four-Year College Rising Juniors Using Propensity Score Matching Methods, which was published in theMay/June edition of The Journal of Higher Education. Using two separate statistical analyses, they found that transfer students were just as likely to succeed at four-year colleges as similar students who started at the studies four-year colleges.

The authors culled data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) on students who “graduated from high school on time, enrolled in college, and attained junior status at a four-year college either by enrolling only at a four-year college or by transferring from a community college.” The former group of rising juniors was then compared to the latter group of transfer students based on the average number of non-remedial credits they earned and their bachelor degree attainment rates.  Without controlling for any differences between the two groups, the authors found that rising juniors earned slightly more credits than transfer students and outpaced transfer students in degree attainment 73 percent to 60 percent.

Using a linear regression analysis, the authors controlled for observable, pre-existing differences between the two groups including differences in high school academic preparation, financial aid and work opportunities, county-level labor market characteristics and individual demographic characteristics. The results of the analysis showed no difference between the two groups in the average number of non-remedial credits earned and no difference in their overall rates of bachelor’s degree attainment. Similarly, a propensity score matching analysis which “allows obserservationally similar people to be compared,” revealed no differences between the outcome measures of the two groups. As such, the authors conclude that “community college transfer students earn equivalent numbers of non-remedial credits and attain baccalaureate degrees at similar rates than four-year rising juniors.” They go on to point out, however, that a relatively small percentage of community college students (25 to 40 percent) make a smooth transition to four-year institutions, and that those who failed to transfer with junior status were not taken into account in the study.

Success of Community College Transfer Students and Rising Juniors Compared


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