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Community College Bachelor's Degrees
June 2020


What does the research say about the impact of community colleges granting bachelor's degrees in teacher education/credentials, specifically related to how this can address gaps in the educator workforce?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Daun-Barnett, N., & Escalante, S. (2014). Local influences of community college baccalaureate legislation on nursing and teaching degree production in Florida. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 38(11), 1030-1043., Request full text available at

From the Abstract:
"This study examines the impact of the community college baccalaureate policy across Florida. In 2001, the state legislature granted St. Petersburg College authorization to offer a limited number of baccalaureate degrees in approved program. Since that time, 18 community colleges across the state have offered 111 degree programs. This study examines whether offering the baccalaureate degree at community colleges increases degree production in two key areas--nursing and teaching. We employ two separate quasiexperimental approaches--fixed effects modeling and difference in differences--to examine whether changes in degree production in these two disciplines is attributable to the adoption of the policy. In nursing, there appears to be an impact within the early adopting regions, but the difference in differences analysis suggests those changes are not attributable to the policy. In teacher education, the analyses are consistent that the policy has not resulted in an increased production of new teachers. Policymakers in states that have not yet adopted statewide policy on the matter should consider the implications for regional markets when deciding upon the community college baccalaureate. The experiences in Florida have broader implications for states across the country considering a similar policy shift. Based upon these findings, policy makers should not pass similar legislation with the intent to increase degree production in these targeted programs, at least in the near term. There may be other valid rationales for the policy to test, which should be the subject of future investigations."

Gandara, P., & Cuellar, M. (2016). The baccalaureate in the California community college: Current challenges and future prospects. Los Angeles, CA: The Civil Rights Project. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"In California, as across the nation, African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos are much less likely to complete a BA degree than either white or Asian students. In 2015, more than 58% of Asians and almost 45% of non-Hispanic whites in California had at least a Bachelor's Degree. For Latinos, this percentage was barely 13% and for African Americans, 27% (U.S. Census, 2015). Clearly, this creates an untenable situation for the economy of a state in which the majority of its high school graduates are African American and Latino. One prominent reason for this disparity is that California channels most of its postsecondary students of color, and low-income students, into two-year colleges where heretofore they are less likely to acquire a four-year degree. Given this fact, if the state had a goal of increasing the baccalaureate degree production among these groups of students it might make sense to target programs in places that these students have access to and in fields that are likely to attract them, and to consider recruitment procedures that would outreach to these groups. But that is not what California is doing, nor is it what other states we have examined are doing. This appears to be a great missed opportunity to make a dent in the inequitable rates of degree attainment among underrepresented students, and to spur the economy. This report compares the California experience to date with that of other states that are demographically similar to California. It offers a set of recommendations that could help the state achieve both workforce readiness and greater equity of opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree for underrepresented students."

Meza, A. E., & Bragg, M. (2020). Community college baccalaureate degree completion in Washington. (New Baccalaureate Series, Data Note 4). Seattle, WA: University of Washington, Community College Research Initiatives. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Complimenting an earlier data note on enrollment by Meza (2019), results of this data note examine the completion rates of students in Community College Baccalaureate (CCB) programs in Washington state by program area and student demographics. We find CCB degree completion rates are rising and now approach the baccalaureate completion rates for students transferring from a community college to a public four-year university in Washington state. This is notable as the CCB student population includes students who are older and more likely to be underserved by higher education than the transfer student group. Our results also show CCB degree completion rates vary by program area and student demographics, with completion rates for Latinx students of 66 percent and rivaling the completion rates of White and Asian students in the Business program area. However, equity gaps exist in degree completion in other CCB program areas that need to be addressed."

Park, T. J., Tandberg, D. A., Shim, H. K., Hu, S., & Herrington, C. D. (2018). Community college teacher education baccalaureate programs: Early evidence yields mixed results. Educational Policy, 32(7), 1018-1040.

From the Abstract:
"Faced with declining numbers of students in teacher education programs, policymakers in many states are considering new actions that might increase teacher supply. One approach that has gained increasing popularity is community colleges beginning to offer 4-year degrees in teacher education. This study explores state adoption of these programs and its effect on the number and diversity of students earning bachelor's degrees in teacher education. Overall, we find no effect of these programs; however, in the limited case of a state with widespread use of community college baccalaureate (CCB) teacher education programs we find that degree production increased, yet the diversity of the graduates declined."

Shah, V. J. (2010). An exploratory study of community college teacher education baccalaureate alumni experiences (Doctoral dissertation Teachers College, Columbia University, 2010). Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"A survey was conducted of teacher education baccalaureate graduates from the first five years (2004-08) of St. Petersburg College's (SPC) programs in Florida, along with teacher education baccalaureate graduates from 2004-08 of the nearest state university, University of South Florida (USF). The survey focused on graduates who were found to be working in education. It first asked graduates descriptive questions about their coursework, backgrounds, and current teaching positions. The salient questions for this study asked graduates to rate the overall quality of various aspects of their academic programs and of their own competencies as teachers. With 89 SPC and 90 USF survey respondents, five questions returned statistically significant results. This exploratory study was the first to consider the perspectives of graduates from one vertically-expanded community college in Florida, and the results shed positive light on this new delivery format. When the opinions of graduates of the new baccalaureate model and the traditional state university model were compared, they rated their competencies as teachers with no significant differences reported between the groups. The teaching graduates of the new vertically-expanded community college were significantly older and more place-bound than their university counterparts. Interestingly, graduates of the new baccalaureate delivery model were significantly more satisfied with their decision to pursue a teacher education baccalaureate. Specifically, the teaching graduates of the vertically-expanded community college rated their advisement and early field experiences significantly higher than did their state university counterparts. The results suggest that if the cost of baccalaureate degree delivery is less expensive via the expanded community college model, and if it can reduce local teacher shortages by adding to the pool of qualified working teachers satisfied with their training and careers, then this model is worthy of investment from both taxpayers and students. Moreover, the teaching graduates suggested improvements for the programs they attended which both institutions may explore. Additional research on the cost and effectiveness of teacher education programs and on teacher attrition will help decision-makers further analyze the merits of various approaches to reducing regional teacher shortages."

Other References

Coulter, T., & Vandal, B. (2007). Community colleges and teacher preparation: Roles, issues and opportunities (Issue Paper). Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.

From the Abstract:
"The role of community colleges in preparing the next generation of teachers in U.S. classrooms continues to evolve. In many states, community colleges are no longer playing an informal or tangential role in teacher preparation and instead are becoming critical leaders in efforts to develop a pool of highly effective teachers for states and regions that have demand which far exceeds supply. In August of 2006, the Education Commission of the States and the National Center for Teacher Transformation convened representatives from a variety of national organizations representing state higher education executive officers, community colleges, teacher preparation programs, teacher accreditation and K-12 education to discuss the role of community colleges in teacher education. The meeting focused on how community colleges can meet the needs of an increasingly diverse teaching industry and catalyze reform in teacher education. This paper describes a variety of forces in education policy and reform that are providing an important context to the role of community colleges in teacher education. In addition, the paper articulates how community colleges can capitalize on their unique attributes as responsive institutions that serve a diverse population of students and industry needs to meet critical workforce demand in local and regional communities and positively impact the field of teacher education. The following are appended: (1) Participants in Community Colleges and Teacher Preparation: Roles, Issues and Opportunities Meeting (August 8-9, 2006, Washington, DC); (2) Featured Community College Teacher Preparation Programs; and (3) Resources on Community Colleges and Teacher Preparation."

Fulton, M. (2020). Community college bachelor's degrees: An update on state activity and policy considerations (Policy Brief). Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.

From the Abstract:
"Nearly half of the states allow community colleges to award bachelor's degrees as one strategy to meet workforce demands, increase access to educational and career advancement opportunities, address affordability and raise attainment rates. Emerging research also suggests that community college bachelor's degrees may play a role in better serving a more diverse student population. Students who enroll in community college bachelor's programs are typically adult learners who are working and may not be in a position to study full time toward a bachelor's or transfer to a four-year institution. Further, the programs may address the low rates of underserved students and rural residents with a bachelor's degree. This Policy Brief captures recent state policy activity pertaining to community college bachelor's degree programs, summarizes arguments for and against these policies and offers policy considerations for states starting or expanding these programs."

Russell, A. (2010). Update on the community college baccalaureate: Evolving trends and issues (Policy Matters: A Higher Education Policy Brief). American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Over the past two decades, the number of community colleges independently offering baccalaureate degree programs has steadily risen. Though still confined to a very small number of institutions and limited degree programs, this phenomenon continues to generate widespread attention and controversy. This occurs because the trend challenges fundamental assumptions about the mission of two-year colleges and threatens to upset the existing balance between the two- and four-year sectors in the American higher education system. This paper presents recent trends in the community college baccalaureate, describes variations among the states and pending issues, summarizes arguments for and against the community college baccalaureate, and presents implications for policymakers considering this option. A list of resources is provided."

Sikes, E. (2015). OPPAGA research on Florida College System baccalaureate degree programs. Tallahassee, FL: The Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability. Retrieved from

Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. (2017). Program growth and graduate employment outcomes of Washington's applied baccalaureate degrees. Olympia, WA: Author. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Washington's community and technical colleges (CTCs) play an important role in producing baccalaureate degree graduates in the state through the applied baccalaureate (AB) degree. The popularity of these degree programs have grown substantially nationwide with 80 community colleges in 17 states currently offering at least one AB program (Community College Baccalaureate Association, 2016). The primary policy goal of these degrees is access to baccalaureate education for students with barriers to further education. Compared to the traditional university student population, community college students are more likely to be working adults with families, low-income, students of color, and place-bound to their geographic area (American Association of Community Colleges, 2016; Bragg & Ruud, 2011; Lane, 2003; Walker, 2001). For many of these students, it is challenging to pursue a baccalaureate program without a four-year institution near home due to conflicting priorities of work and family. In this regard, having a baccalaureate degree program available at a local community college increases the educational attainment opportunity for students who might not be able to pursue one otherwise, thus supporting statewide goals of increased baccalaureate degree production."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Baccalaureate Degree, Bachelor's degree, Community College, Teacher preparation, Teacher education, Teacher certification, Teacher credentials

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.