Community College Low-Income and Minority Student Completion Study: Descriptive Statistics from the 1992 High School Cohort

Bailey, Thomas R.; Jenkins, Paul Davis; Leinbach, D. Timothy

This report summarizes statistics on access and attainment in higher education, focusing particularly on community college students, using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88), which follows a nationally representative sample of individuals who were eighth graders in the spring of 1988. A sample of these respondents was surveyed through four follow-ups in 1990, 1992, 1994 and 2000. The 2000 survey collected information on both education and job outcomes of respondents. The NELS:88 database includes transcripts of individuals in the sample who enrolled in any postsecondary education. NELS:88 is a survey of a sample cohort of students, most of whom graduated high school in spring 1992. This report provides a detailed statistical analysis of the cohort’s enrollment in and completion of higher education over the eight-year period from 1992 through 2000, with emphasis on the access and attainment of low-income and minority students. The majority of these students entered higher education in the 1992-93 school year or shortly thereafter. Therefore, NELS:88 represents a sample of young postsecondary students, much like the imagined “traditional” undergraduate student. Note that this is different than a true representative sample by age of undergraduate students. In community colleges especially, many students are older individuals either returning for further education or beginning their postsecondary education at a later stage in life.1 We expect this will also reduce the proportion of minority students, low-income students, and first-generation college students than would be representative among all undergraduate students. All these groups are found in larger proportions among older students. The report includes detailed charts showing rates of enrollment and completion of various outcomes (certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and transfer to baccalaureate institutions) for students by race/ethnicity, income level, and parents’ highest level of education, and by initial type of institution in which students enrolled. We highlight students who began in community colleges while comparing their enrollment and completion rates to students at other types institutions. The findings in this report should be compared to those in the companion report, What we know about community college low-income and minority student outcomes: descriptive statistics from national surveys, which provides enrollment and credential completion information for all undergraduate institutions for various years (from IPEDS) and for a representative sample of all first-time beginning postsecondary students in 1995-96 (from BPS:96/01).


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Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
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April 4, 2014