Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Two-Year College Attendance and Socioeconomic Attainment: Some Additional Evidence

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Two-Year College Attendance and Socioeconomic Attainment: Some Additional Evidence

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to explore further the impact of two-year college attendance on an individual's socioeconomic attainments. We had two major goals First, we sought to estimate the magnitude of the net effect of two-year versus four-year college attendance on educational attainment, occupational status, an earnings thirteen to fourteen years after graduation from secondary school. Second, we sought to determine if the socioeconomic impacts of two-year versus four-year college attendance differed significantly for individuals with different background characteristics (for example, gender, race, family socioeconomic status, educational and occupational aspirations).

Existing Research

A considerable body of research and scholarship has focused on the impact of th two-year college on the socioeconomic attainment process. One line of research has clearly established that two-year colleges have played an important, positive role in enhancing the socioeconomic mobility of many individuals. This is particularly apparent when the occupational and economic attainments of two-year college students are contrasted with those of individuals whose education ends with secondary school |10, 21, 23~.

A secondary line of research has focused on the comparative socioeconomic attainments linked to initial attendance at two-year versus four-year colleges. This body of inquiry has operationally defined socioeconomic attainments largel in terms of individual educational attainment, occupational status, and earnings. The most unequivocal findings are in the area of educational attainment. Almost without exception, analyses of national samples have indicated that, when assessed over the same period of time, students who begin their postsecondary education at two-year colleges are about 15 percent less likely on average to complete a bachelor's degree and have significantly lower levels of overall educational attainment than their counterparts who start at four-year institutions. These differences in educational attainment do not appear to be simply a function of the enrollment of different kinds of students at two- and four-year colleges. Rather, the educational attainment differences persist even when controls are made for such potentially confounding causes as family socioeconomic status, educational aspirations, academic ability, secondary school achievement, age, work during college, place of residence, college grades, and the type of academic program in which one is enrolled |2, 5 11, 12, 13, 18, 29, 30, 32~.

The impacts of initial two-year college attendance on occupational status and earnings are less clear. The relatively small body of work addressing occupational or job status typically employs the Duncan Socioeconomic Index (SEI), a hierarchical measure of perceived occupational prestige or desirabilit |14, 15, 17~. Controlling for similar confounding variables as those employed i the research on educational attainment, Anderson |4~ and Breneman and Nelson |7 found that students who initially enrolled in two-year colleges held jobs four and seven years later that were significantly lower in status than those held b similar students who initially enrolled in four-year colleges. There is some possibility, however, that these findings may be more a matter of differences i educational attainment than of direct job status disadvantages accruing to two-year college students. When educational attainment is taken into account, evidence addressing the differential impact on job status of two-year versus four-year college attendance is mixed. Monk-Turner |19~ found a small but significant negative direct impact of two-year college attendance on job status whereas Smart and Ethington |28~ did not. Thomas and Gordon |30~ found a small negative impact in one analysis but not in others.

Inquiry pertaining to the impact of two-year college attendance on earnings is even more sparse than that addressing job status. …

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