"Transferring from a Community College or Initiating in a Four-Year College Directly: Interpreting the Effects in the Presence of Heterogeneity"

Investigator: Di Xu

Funding: National Science Foundation AERA Grants Program

Duration: 2016-2017


Due to increases in tuition and fees for higher education, students who might once have entered college in the four-year sector are now considering entry into the two-year sector, using community college as a stepping stone to four-year institutions. Using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, this study intends to extend the current literature on the transfer function of community colleges in four major ways: first, the bulk of research in this area focuses on students who graduated from high school in the early 1990s. Given the recent trends of increasing enrollment in community colleges, this study will update our understanding of the current transfer function of community colleges. Second, in addition to student academic outcomes, this study will also examine the impacts of initial enrollment in community colleges on student labor market outcomes. Third, while a large volume of studies have examined the possible disparity in students’ academic outcomes, there is less consensus over the mechanisms generating such disparity. Using the rich information available in ELS:2002, I will explore four potential mechanisms, including slowing down academic progress, obstacles against transfer, negative transfer shock, and loss of credits upon transfer. Finally, given the vast and growing compositional heterogeneity among undergraduates, there is little reason to think that the “treatment” of initiating in community colleges affects all students in the same way. Therefore, I will tease out how the impacts of taking the community college route to a bachelor’s degree vary according to student characteristics, particularly by level of academic preparation.