New Report on Community College Baccalaureate (CCB) Programs

This year I’ve covered the issue of community colleges adding 4-year baccalaureate degrees, mostly from the angle of how this trend is distoring the data on enrollment trends. Due to how the Department of Education’s IPEDS data classifies institutions, adding a 4-year degree forces a change for community colleges from Public 2-year to Public 4-year sectors, even though the institution typically remains dominated by 2-year degrees and certificates. The net effect is that “enrollment declines at community colleges” news stories are overstated. I recently shared the cumulative effects for all changes since 2012, creating “Adjusted Public 2-year” and “Adjusted Public 4-year sectors to show the impact.

US higher ed undergrad enrollment by adjusted sector, fall 2012 - 2020

New America Report

New America released a report today on this category of Community College Baccalaureates (CCB) programs and adds much useful context to the trend.

As of this writing, 24 states authorize at least some community colleges to confer bachelor’s degrees. While state legislation, regulation, or other sources of authorization to confer these degrees are relatively simple to track, understanding which institutions are so empowered and what baccalaureate programs they operate is another question entirely.

Until now, no comprehensive data set has been created on community college baccalaureate (CCB) programs across states. While states that have long authorized CCB programs, such as Florida and Washington, offer some publicly available data on state agency websites, these offer limited views of the national count of CCB programs and do not capture the many states with fewer or newer programs. Current and accurate data on the number of programs, types of programs, and institutional characteristics of conferring institutions can help policymakers and institutional leaders see when and how CCB programs are supporting students in other communities and states and whether this type of program could similarly benefit their community.

New America researchers found the schools in question and then did the hard work of classifying the programs and creating useful visuals. For example, this chart shows the state-by-state “share of public, predominantly associate-granting or mixed-mission institutions with at least one approved bachelor’s degree program in a given state”, showing a predominance of western and southeastern states institutions.

states by share of institutions with approved CCB programs

New America also classified the types of 4-year degrees offered by these community colleges.

key areas of study, nationally and in states with the most CCB programs

This is an important trend, as institutions look to redefine themselves based on today’s reality and the changing set of student demands. Kudos to New America for the report, which is well worth reading.