Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Trends in Associate Degrees Conferred to Students of Color

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Trends in Associate Degrees Conferred to Students of Color

Article excerpt

As we await the release of the 2013-14 degree completion data from the National Center for Education Statistics for this year's Top 100 analysis, we decided to take a look at some recent and longer trends. In this issue, we examine such trends for associate degrees and will bring you a parallel analysis for bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the coming weeks. As is our usual practice, we derive these data from the federal IPEDS collections and restrict our analysis to institutions within the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and only include institutions open to the general public (that is, we excluded military institutions, such as the Community College of the Air Force).

Twenty-Year Trends in Associate Degrees Conferred by Sector

The associate degree is typically thought of as an accessible higher education credential made available through community colleges distributed throughout the United States. In this analysis, we explore the conferral of associate degrees over the last 20 years, overall, and to students of color. To examine trends we consider three specific time points, working back from the 201213 academic year to 10 (2002-03) and 20 (1992-93) years ago. For brevity, we will refer to these time points as 1993,2003 and 2013.

We first consider the types of institutions that have been conferring associate degrees. Table 1 and Figure 1 provide the relevant numbers. At the first time point, 1993, just over half a million degrees (523,265) were conferred by nearly 2,500 institutions, with nearly three-quarters of these degrees (383,832 or 73 percent) conferred by community colleges (public, twoyear institutions).

The next highest percentages of associate degrees at this first time point were conferred by for-profit two-year institutions (8 percent), public four-year institutions (7 percent), and private, nonprofit four-year institutions (6 percent). The remaining 6 percent of degrees were conferred by public, nonprofit two-year institutions (4 percent) and for-profit four-year institutions (2 percent).

There were only modest changes in the distribution of degrees by 2003, with the notable introduction of the public, four-year associate college. These are traditional community colleges that began offering a few bachelor's degrees, led notably by Miami Dade Community College, which eventually dropped the "community" from its name. However, since Miami Dade and similar institutions still conferred predominantly associate degrees (at least 90 percent), they maintained their classification as "associate colleges" within the Carnegie Classification typology.

More notable changes in the distribution of associate degree conferrals are evident in the more recent year. Public two-year community colleges still confer the majority of such degrees, but this majority has diminished to less than two-thirds of the total (63 percent). However, when you add in the growing number of community colleges that attained "four-year" status, the community college sector as a whole accounts for nearly threequarters of all associate degrees (72 percent), a one-point drop from 1993.

The largest increase in market share occurred in the for-profit four-year sector, which increased from just 2 percent in 1993, to 5 percent in 2003, to 11 percent of the total in 2013. Also notable is the decline among private, nonprofit two-year institutions, which by 2013 accounted for only 1 percent of associate degrees conferred.

We turn our attention next to the percent of associate degrees conferred to students of color as well as specifically to AfricanAmericans/Blacks and Hispanic students. These percentages are provided in Table 2 and illustrated in Figures 2 through 4. Several interesting trends are evident in these figures.

Considering conferrals to all minority groups, combined (African-American, Asian American, Native American and Hispanic, with multiracial added in 2013), the large, public four-year associate colleges, all of which are located in large urban areas, had the highest rates of minority representation among associate degree recipients in 2003, but this representation level declined by 4 percentage points in the next 10 years. …

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