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CCC Study: Community College Success Nearly Doubles Chance of Bachelor’s Attainment

11/19/2012 12:00 PM

CHICAGO – In a unique effort to understand why some community college students earn a bachelor’s degree and others don’t, City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) researchers undertook an analysis that found students who completed an associate’s degree were nearly twice as likely to earn a four-year degree over a 10-year period.

The study, “Time to Bachelor Degree Attainment for Students Who Started at Community College,” provides an in-depth, localized complement to a report released on November 8 by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That report found that nationally, students who transferred to a four-year school from a two-year institution with an associate’s degree were significantly more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than those who transferred without one.      

The CCC study looked at students who began credit classes at CCC in fall 2000 with no prior community college experience. It tracked the educational advancement of these 6,682 students—of varied age, race, and employment and socioeconomic status—through spring 2011.          

Over a ten-year period, key findings included:          

• 47 percent of associate’s attainers went on to receive a bachelor’s, compared to only 28 percent of those who transferred to a four-year school without a degree. In other words, students who earned an associate degree were significantly more likely to both transfer into and graduate from a bachelor’s program.    
• Similarly, 61 percent of students who earned an associate’s degree transferred into a four-year degree program, compared to 26 percent of students who left CCC before receiving a degree.           
• Of the students tracked, 29 percent transferred to a four-year school and 9 percent eventually earned a bachelor degree.           

“Preparing students for transfer into bachelor’s programs is an essential component of the community college mission,” said Dr. Gutierrez, Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Evaluation. “The results of this study shed important light on how students’ success at City Colleges of Chicago impacts success at other institutions, and have important implications for community colleges’ self-improvement efforts nationwide.”          

Multiple national studies have examined high-school student cohorts and bachelor degree attainment rates, but few have examined community college students and bachelor degree outcomes. The few studies of community college students’ bachelor degree rates have tracked students for 6 years or less, rather than 10 years, as in this CCC study.       


Through its ongoing Reinvention initiative, CCC has deployed many new tools and strategies to boost rates ​of retention, degree completion and transfer to four-year colleges and universities. Its “intrusive advising” strategy has included hiring more advisors to cut the student-advisor ratio in half, introducing a case management approach, and deploying GradesFirst, a web-based student support tool that allows faculty to provide early alerts to academic advising staff about at-risk students. Thousands of meetings between at-risk students and support staff occurred since GradesFirst launched earlier this fall. 

Other key student support efforts include:           

• hiring Transfer Directors at each City College to guide students investigating transfer to 4-year institutions        
• expanding the number of transfer agreements to four-year institutions to ensure students have smooth pathway to a bachelor’s degree after transferring          
• establishing embedded tutors in math programs (the area in which CCC students tend to be least college-ready)          
• creating Wellness Centers at all seven City Colleges to provide personal counseling and support groups (covering time and stress management techniques)          

City Colleges’ graduation rate rose to its highest rate in 10 years in 2011, increasing to 11 percent from 7 percent. The community college system awarded nearly 3,300 associate’s degree in 2012, up more than 30 percent from 2011 and double the number awarded a decade ago.     
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