Academic journal article Community College Review

Net Effects of Institutional Type on Baccalaureate Degree Attainment of "Traditional" Students

Academic journal article Community College Review

Net Effects of Institutional Type on Baccalaureate Degree Attainment of "Traditional" Students

Article excerpt

This study explores the net effects of institutional type on degree attainment. The literature suggests that two-year college matriculants are much less likely to earn a baccalaureate degree than students first enrolling at four-year colleges. Such findings hold even when researchers control for differences among the two groups. Previous studies did not, however, examine whether age and full-time enrollment are factors in persistence. This study seeks to determine if the established pattern is valid when examining only "traditional" students.


The objective of this study is to determine if institutional type has a net effect on baccalaureate degree attainment of traditional-aged students. This study defines traditional students as those under the age of 19 at high school graduation who enroll directly, on a full-time basis, into college the following fall term. The significance of this study is to explore the equity of opportunity for baccalaureate attainment for traditional students by institutional type. The null hypothesis claims that no statistically significant difference exists regarding traditional students' baccalaureate degree completion based upon institutional type (two-year or four-year institutions) at initial matriculation.

Research that relies on data from National Center for Education Statistics 1972 National Longitudinal study indicates that the net effect of enrolling at a two-year college instead of a four-year college reduces a student's probability of obtaining a baccalaureate degree. Estimates of the forgone probability range from 11% to 19% (Nunley and Breneman, 1988; Anderson, 1984; Velez, 1985). After reviewing the research regarding the net effects of educational achievement by type of institution, Dougherty (1992) argues that findings hold even when researchers rely on different sources of national data. He concludes:

   In sum, the poorer outcomes encountered by baccalaureate aspirants
   entering community colleges rather than four-year colleges
   cannot be attributed only to the fact that the former entrants are
   generally of more modest backgrounds, abilities, and aspirations.
   Even when we compare students with similar traits, we find that
   baccalaureate aspirants entering the community college are still
   significantly less likely to realize their hopes. This is an
   institutional effect that cannot be explained by differences in
   student characteristics. (p. 191-192)

In contrast to existing studies, the present study restrictively selects observations by including only traditional students and eliminating "experimenters" from the analysis. Grubb (1991) defines experimenters as students who earn fewer than 12 equivalent semester hours of college credit throughout their college careers; this study excludes such students from the analysis and extends the exclusion to all students enrolled part-time at both two-year and four-year institutions. While most existing studies include only baccalaureate degree aspirants or those enrolled in academic programs, they fail to control for age, as well as remove experimenters and part-time students from the analysis. This study uses a narrow selection of students in order to provide a valid comparison of a group of students loosely defined as traditional. This study finds that initial matriculation at a two-year college reduces traditional students' net probability of earning a baccalaureate degree, although the effect is much less than what the current literature suggests. Furthermore, while this study concludes that institutional type is important in explaining baccalaureate degree attainment, its importance is secondary to several other independent variables included in the model.


Much of the existing literature on community colleges addresses those institutions' role in baccalaureate attainment, examining the degree to which community colleges facilitate or hinder students in their aspirations to earn a bachelor's degree. …

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