About 40 percent of undergraduate students enrolled in higher education attend two-year community colleges. While community colleges offer educational opportunities for many students who otherwise might not enroll in higher education, some critics say that two-year schools steer students, particularly disadvantaged minority students, away from four-year institutions where they would be on track for a bachelor’s degree.
A new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison refutes the critics of community colleges. The study found that attending a community college did have a negative impact on bachelor’s degree attainment for students from upper-middle class homes. But the authors found that for disadvantaged students, who represent the majority of community college-goers, enrolling at a community college has a modest positive effect on their likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree.
Jennie E. Brand, an associate professor of sociology at UCLA and the lead author of the study, stated that “many policy and school district initiatives are focusing on getting high school graduates into four-year degree programs instead of community colleges. Our data show that there is no penalty for attending community colleges for the vast majority of students who attend them.”
The study, “The Community College Effect Revisited: The Importance of Attending to Heterogeneity and Complex Counterfactuals,” was published in the journal Sociological Science. It may be downloaded by clicking here.