Teachers College, Columbia University

Undermatching into Community College: High-Achieving Students’ Perspectives on Choosing Two-Year Versus Four-Year College Entry

Date and Time: March 22, 2019 11:15 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
Location: Kansas City, MO
Venue: Kansas City Marriott Downtown

In recent years, college “undermatching” has become a key talking point in the national conversation on postsecondary education. Studies exploring undermatch, or the choice to enroll in a college for which the student is overqualified, have primarily focused on demographic predictors of the phenomenon and little research has explored why students who choose to initially enter lower-tier colleges may consider them a better match.

In this poster presentation, we drew from interviews conducted with 115 high-achieving transfer-oriented students at six community colleges across the country. Qualitative analyses showed that most students cited financial considerations, personal preferences, desires for a slower introduction into college life, and/ or beliefs that community colleges' academic offerings are comparable to four-year colleges' as reasons for choosing a community college. In this presentation, researchers discussed these four themes in more detail, and how they intersect with students’ demographic profiles and personal histories. Finally, researchers presented recommendations for selective universities seeking to attract more low-income and first-generation enrollees, as well as for community colleges seeking to attract more high-achieving enrollees.


Research Affiliate
Community College Research Center
Senior Research Associate
Community College Research Center
Negar Farakish
Executive Director of Academic Affairs and Clinical Assistant Professor
NYU School of Professional Studies, Division of Programs in Business

Associated Project(s)