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Study: When Credits Transfer, Community College Students Save On Four-Year Degrees

In March, we shared a recent report by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment which found that, contrary to preconceived notions, an associate degree alone could help recipients increase their earning potential.

Now, a study (PDF) by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College paints a less surprising but nevertheless equally positive portrait about the importance of community colleges: they’re a great way to save money in pursuit of a four-year degree.  As Inside Higher Ed notes, attending a community college and transferring is less expensive than beginning at a four-year institution as a freshman.

With more than 80 percent of community college students indicating that they’re attending community college as jumping off point to eventually attend a four-year institution, the savings—which could add up to several thousands of dollars, according to the study—could be crucial.  

Of course, savings only occur when students are able to successfully transfer credit from a community college to the four-year institution of their choice, an option that sadly is not universal. While some states have policies in place that allow for smooth transfer of community college credit to four-year institutions, like the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), in many cases students may fail to transfer earned credit, delaying degree completion and adding expense to the process.

Nevertheless, the findings should encourage institutions to continue to implement policies and programs to support student persistence, particularly for adult students—a population more likely to experience degree attrition.

To read the full article by Inside Higher Ed, click here.

CAEL works with colleges and universities throughout the country to improve their support of their nontraditional students. To learn more how CAEL helps higher education institutions bolster persistence and completion rates for their adult students, click below.

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