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IES Grant

Title: California Community Colleges and Career Technical Education: A Research-Practitioner Partnership
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Kurlaender, Michal Awardee: University of California, Davis
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/2015 – 6/30/2017) Award Amount: $399,871
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H150073

Co-Principal Investigators: van Ommeren, Alice; Stevens, Ann

Partnership Institutions: University of California, Davis; California Community College Chancellor's Office

Purpose: This project was a collaboration between researchers at the University of California at Davis (UCD) and the Chancellor's Office of the California Community College (CCCCO) system. The purpose was to investigate the outcomes of students enrolled in CTE courses and programs at the state's community colleges. Specifically, the project focused on:

  • variation in earning returns to CTE education across specific disciplines and fields
  • identification of CTE student enrollment types, goals, and associated outcomes
  • factors that affected the likelihood of certificate or degree completion

Project Activities: Researchers at UCD collaborated with the CCCCO on analysis of system data aimed at improving programming and policies for CTE students and developing measures for CCCCO's accountability system. UCD researchers worked with the CCCCO to develop analytical models and data analysis procedures. Partnership members met monthly to discuss research progress and policy issues.

Key Outcomes:

  • Increase in a CTE program's flexibility was associated with increases in enrollment and completions, but not with changes in its completion rate (Grosz et al., 2022).
  • CTE certificates and degrees were associated with increased in earning return. Stevens et al. (2019) estimated that returns to CTE certificate and degrees ranged from 14 to 45 percent on average. The researchers found that largest returns were for programs in the healthcare sector, estimated from 15 to 23 percent points of an increase.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study took place in the 114 California community colleges.

Sample: The enrollment of California community colleges was approximately 2.6 million annually from 2010 to 2016. This partnership focused on the subset of 87 thousand students with CTE goals and/or course-taking behaviors and 236 thousand students in the comparison group.

Education Issue: Although career technical education and workforce development is very commonly noted as a major mission of community colleges, very little is known about how effectively community colleges identify CTE students, their degree intentions, or their outcomes.

Research Design and Methods: This project team used quantitative analysis (both exploratory and quasi-experimental) with detailed individual-level longitudinal data derived from administrative sources: California Community College Chancellor's Office and employment and wage data from the State of California Employment Development Department.

Key Measures: Key measures included CTE enrollment types, goals, degree completion, and earning return.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers conducted quantitative analyses (both exploratory and quasi-experimental) with detailed individual-level longitudinal data from the CCCCO as well as employment and wage data from the State of California Employment Development Department. To address returns to specific CTE credentials, researchers used individual fixed-effects models with covariates for student characteristics and prior work history. To identify non-degree seekers, researchers used regression with covariates including students' course-taking behaviors and stated objectives. To assess factors associated with degree completion, the research team used discrete-time survival analysis with covariates to explain students' persistence and completion trajectories.

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications:

Grosz, M., Kurlaender, M., & Stevens, A. (2022). Capacity and flexibility in community college CTE programs: program offerings and student success. Research in Higher Education, 63(1), 140–188.

Stevens, A. H., Kurlaender, M., & Grosz, M. (2019). Career technical education and labor market outcomes: Evidence from California community colleges. Journal of Human Resources, 54(4), 986–1036.