Panel: Community College Pathways: Factors Affecting Persistence and Degree Attainment at Public Two-Year Colleges

Friday, November 7, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Aztec (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Adela Soliz, Harvard University
Panel Chairs:  Michal Kurlaender, University of California, Davis
Discussants:  Jessica Howell, The College Board and Joshua Goodman, Harvard University

Class Size in Community College
Oded Gurantz, Stanford University

Pathways and Barriers to Community College Transfer and Student Success
Adela Soliz, Harvard University and Angela Boatman, Vanderbilt University

Who Transfers and Where Do They Go? Community College Students in Florida
Ben Backes and Erin Dunlop Velez, American Institutes for Research

The United States is facing a rising demand for educated workers. Though scholars differ in their estimates of future labor shortages, some estimate that, by 2018, the United States may be short 3.4 million college-educated workers (Carnevale, Smith & Strohl, 2010). Given these projected shortages in the educated labor force, President Obama has called for 8 million new college graduates by 2020. In order to meet this goal, policy makers will have to consider America’s community colleges, which now enroll a larger share of undergraduates than any other sector in higher education. In 2010, 47 percent of undergraduates attended community colleges (College Board, 2013). However, of students starting at community colleges in 2005, only 21% of those who indicated they were degree-seeking completed an associate degree or certificate within 150% of the normal time (College Board, 2011). Given that community colleges enroll such a large share of undergraduates, it is imperative that we better understand how to promote community college student success. The papers on this panel make use of diverse methods and data sources to examine policies promoting community college student persistence and degree attainment. The first two papers on this panel are concerned with the content and structure of courses at community colleges, while the second two address pathways from community colleges to four-year degrees. Paper 1 charts the use of alternative modes of delivery of remedial math in the Los Angeles Community College District and finds that few courses have sought to improve outcomes through the employment of alternative modes of delivery, such as acceleration or contextualization. The next paper considers how rising enrollment rates at community colleges might impact student success. The author uses data from a large community college in California to estimate the causal effect of increasing class sizes on student outcomes. Many students who start at a community college do so with the expressed intention of transferring to a four-year institution and eventually earning a B.A. (Horn, 2009; Provasnik and Planty, 2008). Paper 3 uses two methods to estimate the effect of the Ohio state articulation policy on students’ likelihood of transfer and B.A. attainment. The final paper describes patterns in four-year college choice for community college transfer students in Florida. For students who manage to transfer, the quality of the institution they choose may be strongly associated with the likelihood that they eventually attain a degree. Policy makers around the globe must ensure that the education levels of the work force keep pace with labor market demands. In the United States, this means promoting persistence and degree attainment for students who access postsecondary education through community colleges. In order to do this, policy makers need to better understand the effect, both of policies impacting the structure and content of community college courses, as well as student pathways from the community college on to a four-year degree.
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