Community colleges are a vital part of America’s opportunity structure, not least because they often provide a way into higher education for adults from less advantaged backgrounds. Each year there are around 10 million undergraduates enrolled at public, two-year colleges. Among first-generation students, nearly 38 percent attend community colleges, compared to 20 percent of students with college-educated parents.
Credentials from community colleges—whether short vocational courses or two-year associate degrees—can be valuable in the labor market. In theory, community colleges also provide an on-ramp for those seeking a bachelor’s degree; in fact, four out of five students enrolling intend to get a 4-year degree.
But the potential of community college is often unrealized. Many students are not ready. Quality varies. Pathways are often unclear and/or complex. Only about 40 percent of those enrolling earn a degree within six years. Just 15 percent acquire a 4-year degree, according to analyses by Doug Shapiro and Afet Dundar at the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
The degree of alignment and integration between community and four-year colleges is much greater in some states than others.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Transfer season: Lowering the barrier between community college and four-year college | Brookings Institution