Supporting What Works: Building Evidence on the Community College Baccalaureate

Evidence is building that the CCB can be an education and economic equity strategy.
Blog Post
Jan. 13, 2021

When a recession hits, we know that people with bachelor’s degrees tend to fare better than those without. In the time of COVID-19, the economic stability that a bachelor’s degree can confer is more important than ever. While increasing bachelor’s degree attainment across the country requires many different strategies, a promising one is the community college baccalaureate (CCB).

While community college bachelor’s degrees may not be well known, the CCB has steadily grown over the past three decades to reach thousands of students across the country. Rather than having to transfer to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree, community college students can stay at their home institution to earn that degree, conferred by the community college. No credit loss. No need to build relationships with a new advisor or new faculty members. No extended commute time to get to a university. Just a clear path forward. While CCB programs tend to be small, the impact on students with access to these options can be sizable.

Just five years ago, only 16 states authorized the CCB. Now, we’re up to 23 states with a few more considering the measure. Given its growth, it is more important than ever to understand the impact of the CCB on students’ lives.

There is now a foundation of research showing connections between CCB programs and good labor market outcomes, including our work and the research produced by our partners at Bragg & Associates and the University of Washington. We learned that older students tend to do well in these programs, and students from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are often well-represented among bachelor’s graduates at community colleges.

But more research around the value of the CCB is needed, and we are delighted to announce that the Center on Education & Labor has received support from the Joyce Foundation and Ascendium Education Group to embark on a two-year agenda of research and analysis on the CCB. Through our continued partnership with the University of Washington and Bragg & Associates, Inc. we will delve more deeply into the financial and geographic access that CCB programs create, as well as students’ preference for studying at familiar, trusted institutions in their home community.

In this project we will focus on questions of how these degrees affect equity and access in baccalaureate attainment and connections to the labor market. Our research will help states identify geographic areas and fields of study where CCB programs would be most effective. We plan to examine state and institutional policy and practice around financing these programs. Evidence is building that the CCB can be an education and economic equity strategy. Stay tuned for new resources from our team supporting the expansion of the CCB and all the benefits it brings for our communities, colleges, and students.


Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium's work identifies, validates and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit https://www.ascendiumphilanthropy.org.

The Joyce Foundation is a nonpartisan private foundation that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region. We support policy research, development, and advocacy in five areas: Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, Democracy, and Culture. Joyce focuses its grant making in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and partners with funders to explore promising policy solutions in other states or at the federal level. www.joycefdn.org