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This one is really an ask of my statistically expert readers.

Has anyone seen really good data on the bachelor’s degree success rates of students who did the early-college or middle-college route into community college?

The data I can get my hands on don’t disaggregate that way.

The students I have in mind are the ones who take a substantial number of community college credits while in high school—30 or more, say—then finish the associate degree at a community college and subsequently transfer to a four-year school. I’d love to see their success rates after they leave the community college.

Ideally, success rates would be broken out at least by race, sex, age and Pell status. An even better breakout might include disability status, military veteran status and major (or at least cluster of majors, such as STEM or business). As long as I’m on it, I’d also love to see it broken out by whether the early courses were taught by college faculty or by high school faculty.

For a long time, we didn’t have a real critical mass of students to get this information. But I think that, as a sector, we probably do by now. These programs have grown enough, and have been around long enough, that we might be able to rely on what we find.

The findings could be useful in any number of ways. If they show that, broadly speaking, the students who did heavy dual enrollment wind up just as strong at the bachelor’s level as those who didn’t, then we’d have an argument for the four-year schools to get more realistic about accepting those credits in transfer. If we find that some demographic groups do fine and others struggle, then we’d know where to start looking to make improvements. If we find that some majors lend themselves quite well and others less well, that could occasion some useful discussions around curriculum and teaching strategies.

The problem right now is that everybody is relying, at least in part, on guesswork. I’ve heard very confident assertions that the students coming out of early-college or middle-college programs are just as good if not better than those who started more traditionally, and I’ve heard very confident assertions that the whole enterprise is a scam. In the absence of evidence, it’s hard either to count or to discount one view or the other.

To be clear, I assume that everyone involved in these programs is acting in good faith. It’s not about that. I’m just hoping that someone has access to, or knowledge of, a set of statistics that I haven’t seen. And again, I’m looking sectorwide, rather than college by college. Any given school in any given year can be an outlier; here I’m looking for something on a national scale.

Wise and worldly readers, does anyone know? (I can be reached at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter @deandad.) Thanks!

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Advice Newsletter publication dates: 
Sunday, April 10, 2022
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Sunday, April 10, 2022



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