Although it may not be their only mission, community colleges have always been an important way to start students on a path to a four-year degree. New data from the National Student Clearinghouse shows how big the two-year institutions are in starting towards a bachelor's degree.
With information from more than 3,000 colleges, the study finds that 45 percent of all students who finished a four-year degree in 2010-11 had previously enrolled at a two-year college. Of those students, 24 percent had been enrolled at the two-year institution for just one term, 16 percent for two terms, and 19 percent for three or four terms. But a full 12 percent were enrolled for at least 10 terms, suggesting that even students who spend a significant length of time at a community college might eventually go on to a four-year college.
We hear a lot about completion rates being low and students being too slow in completing 2 or 4 year degrees. This study shows that more than half of the community college students earn their bachelor's degrees within three years. In that cohort that completed a four-year-degree but started at a community college, 16 percent earned their bachelor's degree within one year of enrolling at the four-year institution, and 36 percent had earned a degree within three years of enrolling.
Here in New Jersey, there were 52,003 students who in 2010-11 completed degrees at 4-Year Institutions, and 19,750 of them were previously enrolled at 2-Year institutions