Poster Paper: Is There a Wage Penalty For Scientists Who Started Their College Education At a 2-Year College?

Thursday, November 7, 2013
West End Ballroom A (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Manuel S Gonzalez Canche, University of Georgia
The system of American postsecondary education is both complex and layered with selective institutions attracting the majority of academically prepared and financially supported students, while other types of institutions have traditionally welcomed more at risk students. This proposal is a call to revisit notions of stratification within the postsecondary education system. Scholars need to move beyond averages and means that stigmatize community colleges by welcoming students academically unprepared and unwilling or ill-equipped to survive and succeed in the current educational system. While this may be true of a segment of community college students, there are nonetheless many who successfully navigated the system to obtain the highest and most prestigious level of formal education offered in the U.S. These students should be at the centerpiece of the student success and access research because they represent the fundamental mission of our community college system, which has been a focal point of several recent presidential initiatives (Complete College America, Lumina’s Big Goal) in driving economic prosperity.

When closely observing the data collected by the National Science Foundation in the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR), over 10% of recipients in science and engineering began their college career at a community or junior college. Despite the significance of this percentage and the political rhetoric surrounding community colleges, to my knowledge, there has been no formal research that has evaluated the academic and professional pathways of these students. It seems the modal path to doctoral degree attainment in the United States is so institutionalized that few have paid attention to the nontraditional and nonlinear organizational pathways that promote access and equality for all types of students, regardless of demographics, SES, and academic entry point.

The purpose of this study is to analyze whether scientists who started their college education at a community college, compared to four-year entrants, experience wage penalty over their professional careers. The data come from the restricted version of NSF Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR), a national, longitudinal panel survey administered to individuals who received a doctoral degree from a U.S. institution in a science, engineering, or health (SEH) field. A growth analysis of postdoctoral-graduation salary will be conducted to capture fluctuations or deviations in annual salary from the mean. In these models, the variations account for the fact that repeated measures will be taken from individuals. Indeed, the main difference between the growth model approach and the traditional multilevel approach is the adjustment for autocorrelation and for variation of the error terms as a function of the characteristics of the participants. In order to capture any possible wage penalty between 2-and 4-year entrants the models will be disaggregated by sector of undergraduate enrollment. The purpose of running separate models for 2-and 4-year students is based on the need to fit models that do not take any information from the other group to estimate the coefficients of interest. If the results show no evidence of wage penalty thus the notion of community colleges as engines of inequality could be challenged.