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Research Center Releases First Community College to Graduate and Professional Degrees Snapshot Report

by | Nov 1, 2017 | Research Reports, Snapshot Reports |

Data Reveals Community College Steps to a Graduate or Professional Degree

Nearly 20 percent of 2016-17 master’s degree earners, 11 percent of 2016-17 doctoral-research degree earners, and 13 percent of 2016-17 professional degree earners (law and medical) originally entered higher education in a community college, according to new research released today by the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™. The first Community College to Graduate and Professional Degrees data snapshot details the extent to which community colleges act as a first step toward the eventual completion of graduate and professional degrees.

“Community college is typically viewed as a portal to the baccalaureate degree, but this study shows that it also helps many individuals access the lifelong employment benefits associated with a master’s or doctorate,” said Suzanne T. Ortega, President of the Council of Graduate Schools. “I hope this study will inspire new strategies for helping community college students chart a path to graduate school.”

Results varied considerably by field of study. For example, 26.3 percent of master’s degree earners in health and clinical sciences originally entered higher education in a community college, compared to only nine percent of master’s degree earners in science and engineering.

The snapshot also shows the percentage of 2016-17 graduate and professional degree earners who previously earned an associate degree, along with the average timespan (in years) from associate degree completion to graduate degree completion. Nearly 12 percent of master’s degree earners, six percent of doctoral-research degree earners, and six percent of professional degree earners (law and medical) had previously earned an associate degree from a community college. Notably, the average timespan from associate degree to professional degree (7.8 years) was shorter than both the average timespan from associate degree to master’s degree (9.9 years) and the average timespan from associate degree to doctoral-research degree (16.0 years).

“The community college-to-graduate school pathway is most prevalent in fields such as health, education, and business.” said Jason DeWitt, Research Manager at the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “This appears to be a pathway in which working adults can incrementally enhance their skill sets while also meeting the demands of full- or part-time employment.”

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more, visit http://research.studentclearinghouse.org.

“Community college is typically viewed as a portal to the baccalaureate degree, but this study shows that it also helps many individuals access the lifelong employment benefits associated with a master’s or doctorate.”

Suzanne T. Ortega
President of the Council of Graduate Schools.

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