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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Do Some Colleges Improve Students' Chances of Completing Degrees?

Jennifer L. Stephan, Northwestern University
James E. Rosenbaum, Northwestern University

Abstract: Do college types affect degree completion? While past work has considered the effects of four-year versus two-year public colleges, this study uses a new method to consider this question and an alternative one. Using propensity score methods forces us to consider whether students at these two types of colleges are comparable. The analysis of kernel density distributions and limited common support in the propensity analysis both suggest that there is limited comparability between students who attend public two- and four-year colleges, and therefore examining differences in attainment rates may be misleading. In effect, propensity methods suggest the question is problematic. However, analyses indicate that private two-year colleges are a viable alternative for many students attending community colleges-the students attending these types of schools are similar. Further, using multiple methods (logistic regression, propensity score stratification, and propensity score adjustment regression), we find a positive effect of attending a private two-year college on degree completion. Institutions appear to matter for degree completion, but not all college types are viable options for all students. These findings could be useful for students' college choices and for policy-makers' assessments of the effectiveness of different college types.