Community College Research Initiatives

New forms of baccalaureate degrees– applied baccalaureates (AB) and community college baccalaureates (CCB)– are emerging throughout the United States, many of which focus on new and emerging occupations associated with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), career-technical education (CTE), and other fields of study. Many universities confer these degrees but increasingly they are conferred by community colleges that have historically awarded the associate’s degree as their highest credential. The CCRI group is grateful to the Joyce Foundation, and Lumina Foundation for their generous funding of this research and development work in this area.

For more information, see our project profile Scaling Community College Baccalaureate Degrees: The Equity Imperative and read the corresponding Data Notes below, along with past research in the publications section.

Check out the latest information about on-going research on community college baccalaureates with the Center for Education and Labor at New America (CELNA) and the Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA).

New Baccalaureate Data Notes

Data Note 10: Washington Community College Baccalaureate Students: How Life Experiences Shape Baccalaureate Education, Employment and Economic Security

October 2020
Lifting up the student experience, this data note presents results from qualitative interviews with CCB students in Washington state. We use in-depth, longitudinal interview data to describe three CCB students’ experiences prior to CCB-program enrollment and through their programs to graduation and employment.

Data Note 9: Prospects for Scaling Community College Baccalaureates in Six Great Lakes States

July 2020
Higher education leaders in selected Great Lakes states see the possibility, yet still have concerns for how CCB degrees can increase academic, geographic, and financial access to higher education. Data Note 9 offers an in-depth approach using federal and state datasets to analyze labor force demand for CCB degree graduates.

Data Note 8: Comparison of the Employment and Earnings Outcomes of Washington Community College Baccalaureate Graduates and University Graduates

June 2020
Data Note 8 compares employment and earnings findings to bachelor’s graduates of regional public universities in similar programs of study.

Data Note 7: Washington Bachelor’s of Applied Science Graduate Employment and Earnings Outcomes

June 2020
Data Note 7 describes how CCB graduates fare in the labor market for up to three years post-graduation.

Data Note 6: Growth in Enrollment and Completion of STEM Community College Baccalaureate Degrees in Washington State

March 2020
Data Note 6, on STEM CCB programs in Washington State, shows comparable degree completion rates between women and men, yet female enrollment statistics lag behind state and national statistics for STEM education. Additionally, while STEM CCB enrollees have greater diversity than university counterparts, the research shows disparities in enrollment by and completion of students of color compared to white and Asian students.

Data Note 5: How Do Students Earning CCB Degrees Compare to Their Peers at Public Universities in Washington State?

February 2020
Data Note 5 reports that CCB degree earners are more diverse than university baccalaureate earners in business administration and nursing, especially among African American and Latinx students. These results provide preliminary evidence of the extent to which CCB serves as a policy lever to increase gender and racial diversity in baccalaureate attainment in Washington.

Data Note 4: Community College Baccalaureate Degree Completion in Washington

February 2020
Data Note 4 reports the completion rates of students in CCB programs in Washington State by program area and student demographics, showing baccalaureate completion rates for CCB students that rival baccalaureate completion rates for transfer students who are less diverse than CCB graduates.

Data Note 3: Updating the National Landscape: State Adoption of Community College Baccalaureate Degrees

November 2019
Given the changing policy context across the nation, this data note updates the current national landscape and provides additional information about CCB policy and program implementation. Trends in authorization of CCB degrees and implications for equity and diversity are also discussed.

Data Note 2: The Community College Baccalaureate in Washington: Who Enrolls?

August 2019
When authorizing community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in 2007 the legislature intended for these degrees to serve students enrolled in professional-technical education. Data Note 2 explores the extent to which programs serve the intended population, how demographics relate to program enrollment, and enrollment shifts over time.

Data Note 1: The Evolving Landscape for New Baccalaureate Degrees

January 2019
This first Data Note on Scaling Community College Baccalaureate Degrees: The Equity Imperative research project provides baseline information on relatively new forms of baccalaureate degrees, reasons colleges adopt these degrees, and concerns identified for expanding these degrees to more states and postsecondary institutions.


Bragg, D. D., & Soler, M. C. (2017). Policy narratives on applied baccalaureate degrees: Implications for student access to and progression through college in the United States. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, 69(1), 123-146.

Analyzing perspectives from four stakeholder groups on Applied Baccalaureate (AB) degrees the authors find common and some contrasting perspectives. They predict only compelling AB results will shift stakeholder groups to a consensus position.

Bragg, D. D., & Soler, M. C. (2016). Shining light on higher education’s newest baccalaureate degrees and the research needed to understand their impact. In X. Wang (Ed.), New Directions for Institutional Research, 170, 61-72.

Article presents research on Applied Baccalaureate (AB) degrees and discusses the missing methods and measures that need to be developed to conduct meaningful research on these degrees.

Outcomes Evaluation of Applied Baccalaureate Degree Programs in STEM and Technical Education

March 2016
Paper focuses on the need for high quality evaluations of Applied Baccalaureate (AB) degree programs. The report defines and explains outcomes evaluation and discusses its importance to understanding the implementation and impact of AB degrees.

Applied Baccalaureate Degrees in STEM and Technician Education: Program Implementation in Five Regions of the United States

October 2015
A collection of case studies wherein institutions offer community college baccalaureate (CCB) degrees and partnerships involving community colleges and universities that confer either or both associate of applied science (AAS) and applied baccalaureate (AB) degrees.

Investigating Applied Baccalaureate Degree Pathways in Technician Education

March 2012
Paper describes research that included surveys, website review, and document analysis to characterize AB degree pathways affiliated with National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) projects and centers. Paper provides insight into pathways in STEM fields and AB degree pathways that prepare technicians and technologists.

All or Nothing? Midpoint Credentials for Students Who Stop Short of the Baccalaureate Degree

November 2011
This small-scale study confirms that, for students for whom no credential emerges from college course-taking, even after acquiring a substantial amount of credits, college is an ―all or nothing‖ proposition.

The Adult Learner and the Applied Baccalaureate: Lessons from Six States

May 2011
The report describes a thematic analysis of AB degree policy and program degree implementation in six states in areas such as STEM, public service, business, and other areas, including liberal arts and sciences.

The Adult Learner and the Applied Baccalaureate: Emerging Lessons for State and Local Implementation

January 2009
The study reports on the status of applied baccalaureate (AB) programs in all 50 states offered by public associate degree-granting and traditional baccalaureate degree-granting colleges and universities.

The Adult Learner and the Applied Baccalaureate: National and State-by-State Inventory

October 2008
The report provides a state-by-state description of the extent to which the AB exists in public higher education institutions in the 50 states, with implications for federal, state, and local leaders and policymakers.