Research Shows Community College Classes Benefit 4-Year Students

blackboard, chalkboard, whiteboardResearchers found that students enrolled in four-year colleges but take some courses at community colleges have better academic and labor market outcomes than their peers who do not take community college classes.

In a new working paper, researchers from the Community College Research Center found that students taking as many as 10 credits at a two-year institution were more likely to earn a four-year diploma and have higher wages than their counterparts who did not, all without increasing their loan debt.

Students are able to benefit from taking community college classes in many ways. The classes tend to be scheduled at more flexible times, students may take courses that their primary college does not offer every semester, community colleges are less expensive, and supplemental enrollment can help underrepresented students accumulate STEM credits according to research.

From Education Dive:

“Four-year students from these subgroups may find community colleges to be a more academically supportive environment to earn STEM credits,” they write.

Indeed, the authors found that female and low-income students were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field when they supplemented their four-year education with community college classes.

STEM education has long struggled with diversity. Only 12.6% of Black students and 16.7% of Hispanic students who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2016 did so in a STEM field, according to a report last year from the American Council on Education. That’s compared to 34.7% of Asian students and 20.5% of white students.

Moreover, men earned 68% of STEM degrees and certificates awarded in the 2015-16 academic year, while women earned around 32%, according to federal data, which does not include a category for nonbinary students.

Research showed that all supplemental enrolled students (students also receiving credit from a community college) had 4.4 more total college credits earned, 4.5% higher attainment of bachelor’s degrees, and $1.40 higher hourly wages compared to those who did not attend community college classes.

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