junior college


Throughout the late 1970s and the early 1980s, over 50% of all first-time first-year college
students started in a junior college. Despite such a large role in higher education, we know
relatively little about how well they serve their role of providing an education for all who want to
attend college. Junior colleges affect educational attainment in two ways. First, the schools provide
a place in higher education for those who might not have otherwise attended college, the
democratization qfiecr; however, they also draw away some students who might otherwise have
attended a four-year college, the diversion efiect. The democratization effect is nonnegative;
however the effect of diversion on educational attainment is unclear, a priori, as some students might
be better off starting in a four-year school.
This paper attempts to sort out the overall impact of junior colleges on educational
attainment. I use the natural experiment arising from variation in access to junior colleges across
cities and states to address the problem of self-selection into types of colleges. This approach is
implemented by an instrumental variables strategy in which distance to junior college and average
state two-year college tuition are used to instrument for junior college attendance in an educational
attainment equation. The results suggest that on net junior colleges increase total years of schooling,
but do not change the likelihood of attaining a BA.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, April, 1995, Vol. 13., No. 2
Rouse, C. (1993). Democratization or Diversion? The Effect of Community Colleges on Educational Attainment. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp014q77fr34z (Original work published February 1993)
Working Papers

In "The Varied Economic Returns to Postsecondary Education: New Evidence from the
Class of 1972", an article recently published in the Journal of Human Resources (Volume 28,
no. 2, pp. 365-382), Norton Grubb reaches two main conclusions: (1) students who enroll in
two-year colleges without completing degrees earn no more than comparable high school
graduates; and (2) degrees from two-year colleges and vocational and technical institutes only
indirectly lead to higher earnings by providing students with access to jobs in which they can
accumulate experience and on-the-job training (i.e., access to "careers" instead of "jobs"). Given
that roughly half of those entering college today do so at community colleges and that roughly
a fifth of federal Pell Grant subsidies are spent at these institutions, such results are quite
However, in this comment we show that several of the variables used in Grubb’s paper
are severely mismeasured and that, when they are corrected with reasonable alternatives, his
conclusions no longer receive empirical support. On the contrary, even those who enter but fail
to complete degrees at community colleges do seem to earn significantly more than similar high
school graduates. Further, controlling for work experience has relatively little effect on the
estimated returns.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter 1995
Kane, T., & Rouse, C. (1994). Comment on W. Norton Grubb, "The Varied Economic Returns to Postsecondary Education: New Evidence from the Class of 1972". Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01bk128990w (Original work published January 1994)
Working Papers