October 17, 2023

New Research on Public Investments in Community College Baccalaureate Degrees Will Investigate Program Approval and Development Data

In recent years, the landscape of higher education has witnessed a significant shift, marked by the proliferation of Community College Baccalaureate (CCB) degrees across 24 states that now award more than 25,000 bachelor’s degrees annually, and growing. Advocates of CCB degrees argue they cultivate talent and bolster state and regional economies, at the same time providing access to baccalaureate programs of study for adult learners and others who are rooted in communities where they work and care for family members and friends.

The University of Washington, in partnership with the firm Bragg & Associates and the Community College Baccalaureate Association is pleased to announce a new $250,000 grant from the Strada Education Foundation to research the data that states and colleges use to make the case for CCB degrees, identifying the strengths and limitations of current CCB policies and program approval processes. Phase one of this multiphase study occurs over the next 18 months and allows the research team to investigate program approval and development processes for new CCB programs in two states. By leveraging mixed methods and data-driven insights, results of the study will inform higher education decision-making and, ultimately, fortify state and local economies by ensuring adults and others served by community colleges gain opportunities for well-paying careers and lifelong learning. While the focus is on CCB degrees, the implications extend beyond community colleges to public investments in higher education.

Dr. Elizabeth Meza, Principal Investigator at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance described this study as “the first to systematically investigate data used for decision-making about CCB program approval and development. If colleges get this right and can provide quality degrees that students want and the labor market demands, all for an affordable cost, it can be a big win. However, the challenge is that’s a lot of moving pieces to consider.”

Dr. Meza, working in partnership with co-Principal Investigator Dr. Debra Bragg of Bragg & Associates, Inc., will examine data used for supply and demand analysis, curriculum and instructional design, partnerships involving colleges and employers and community-based organizations, and equity in student access and program outcomes. According to Dr. Bragg, “an important question the study will ask is how the case for new CCB programs address whether these programs create more equitable baccalaureate pathways for racially minoritized and other under-served populations.”

The Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA) is partnering in this project to ensure a robust network of colleges is involved and results are shared nationwide.