Chen Publishes Article on Community College Penalty

September 28, 2022

BATON ROUGE, LA - Dr. Yu April Chen published an article titled "Community college penalty in employment outcomes: Comparing post-baccalaureate salaries between community college transfers and four-year direct attendees" with SN Social Science. Read the article here.

What is the Community College Penalty?

The community college penalty has been a controversial topic in the field of community college and higher education research for the last couple of decades. It refers to a lower success rate observed among community college transfers (those who transfer from a community college to a four-year institution for obtaining a bachelor's degree) as compared to those who directly attended a four-year institution. Some previous studies argued that community college transfers may have a lower likelihood of timely completion with a bachelor's degree and may further suffer a lower income after graduation (e.g., Lichtenberger and Dietrich 2013; Xu et al. 2018). However, other higher education scholars argued that choosing the community college transfer pathway resulted in no penalty (e.g., Andrews et al. 2014; Melguizo et al. 2011). 

About the article

Dr. Chen's article analyzed a nationally representative sample with advanced statistical techniques. The authors found that, after graduating with a bachelor's degree, community college transfers earned equally well compared to their counterparts who started from a four-year directly. Or, a community college salary penalty was disproved.

This non-penalty conclusion highlights the significant role of the community college transfer pathway in promoting social equity and upward mobility since community colleges serve a large proportion of the underrepresented and underserved student populations. As the cost of attending for a bachelor's degree kept skyrocketing, the community college transfer pathway may be of even greater value as it contributes to lower total costs for the baccalaureate degree while not bearing a penalty towards post baccalaureate salaries. 

Social media appearance

This article received kudos from Insider Higher Ed on September 2, 2022. 

Below is a picture of the three authors (from left to right: Dr. Ran Li (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at Guangzhou), Dr. Yu April Chen, and Dr. Linda Serra Hagedorn (Iowa State University) presenting the preliminary results of this article at the annual conference of The Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC).


Photo of Dr. Chen and authors