Two Years Before Four: More Students Starting At Two-Year Schools Before Earning Four-Year Degree

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Education news headlines in recent months have prominently featured community college and two-year programs, due to the call for increased enrollment and opportunity for educational options. But for current students, the value of two-year degree is well-known. Not only do community colleges offer students an Associate’s Degree and valuable career training in two years, but an increasing number of students are using community colleges as a springboard to four-year programs. A recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, shows that the number of students graduating from four-year programs after taking courses at a two-year program increased in the 2013-14 school year.

The report showed 46% of students who completed a degree at a four-year institution were enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous 10 years. So not only are students using two-year programs as a stepping stone to a four-year program, the time span of the study suggests that students balancing work and school can still use a two-year program to help prepare, and eventually achieve, the goal of a four-year degree.  Of the 46%, the study states that 10% of the students had a gap of 8-10 years between courses at a two-year program and completion of the four-year degree (the majority of students, 38%, completed their four-year degree within 2-3 of years of attending a two-year program).

Many states exceeded the 46% average, with Texas leading the way with 70% of their four-year graduates having spent time in a two-year program before moving on. Iowa was also above the average at 56%. As students continue to look for efficient paths to a four-year degree and the national conversation places the importance of community colleges front and center in education, these numbers will certainly increase as students realize and embrace two-year programs as a vital and viable tool in achieving their educational and career goals.

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