Enrollment And Finance: An Exploration Of The Community College Baccalaureate

Jeremy Wright-Kim, University of Pennsylvania


Unstable financial investment in higher education from public sources, coupled with current and projected enrollment declines, is putting financial strain on colleges and universities across American higher education. As an enrollment-dependent sector that relies most heavily on public support, this stress is particularly acute for community colleges. One potential mechanism through which community colleges may address these enrollment- and finance-related issues is by extending their academic offerings to include bachelor’s degrees – commonly known as the community college baccalaureate or CCB. Supporters of these initiatives believe CCBs may benefit students and local economies by providing academic, geographic, and financial access to economically relevant four-year credentials, while proving beneficial for institutions by potentially attracting new students and funding. Meanwhile, opponents of these programs remain concerned that community colleges will be unable to offer quality credentials and may never have the resources necessary to maintain a dual two-year and four-year mission, while potentially abandoning their historic missions of broad access. Despite the very public debate that has ensued surrounding CCB adoption, research is only beginning to document their potential effects; extant empirical literature regarding the institutional effects of CCBs is particularly slim. This study attempts to address this gap in knowledge by using longitudinal panel data and quasi-experimental methods to estimate the effect of community college baccalaureate adoption on institutional enrollment and finance at participating institutions. Results from this study shed light on the extent to which CCBs meet their goal of increasing access, measured by institutional enrollment, while also contributing to the discussion of resources stress at the institution level by documenting potential shifts in revenue generation and spending post-CCB adoption. Findings from this study may prove particularly useful for policy makers and institutional practitioners as they determine the potential institutional benefits of offering baccalaureate-level education while operating within an increasingly resource-constrained context.