Teachers College, Columbia University

Community College Student Success: What Institutional Characteristics Make a Difference?

By Thomas Bailey, Juan Carlos Calcagno, Davis Jenkins, Gregory S. Kienzl & D. Timothy Leinbach

The goal of this study is to determine the institutional characteristics that affect the success of community college students as measured by the individual student probability of completing a certificate or degree or transferring to a baccalaureate institution.

While there is extensive research on the institutional determinants of educational outcomes for K-12 education and a growing literature on this topic for baccalaureate institutions, few researchers have attempted to address the issue for community colleges. Using individual level data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) and institutional level data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we address two methodological challenges associated with research on community college students: unobserved institutional effects and attendance at multiple institutions.

The most consistent results across specifications are the negative relationship between individual success and larger institutional size, and the proportion of part-time faculty and minority students.

A version of this working paper was published as an article in Economics of Education Review, vol. 27, issue 6.

A brief of this paper, Graduation Rates, Student Goals, and Measuring Community College Effectiveness, is available for download.