Community College: A Cost Effective Path to a Bachelor's or a Short Sighted Educational Investment

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Paul F Byrne Rosemary L Walker

Abstract

Rising four-year university tuition and graduate indebtedness in the United States has made two-year community colleges a potentially cost effective path to a bachelor's degree by allowing students to transfer community college credit hours into a four-year university. However, courses at community colleges may not be perfect substitutes for the four-year college courses they replace and may potentially have adverse effects on academic performance, indebtedness and future income. Using the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Survey we find that bachelor's degree graduates that transferred in credit hours from community colleges experience some adverse academic outcomes. Although these graduates had similar cumulative and major GPAs, they had an increased likelihood of repeating a course or having to withdraw from a class because of failure. In spite of these adverse academic outcomes, graduates that transferred credit hours from community colleges graduated with less student debt and had slightly higher post-graduation incomes than their fellow graduates. (I21, I23, J24)

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