The educational outcomes of occupational sub-baccalaureate students: Evidence from the 1990s

Mariana Alfonso, Thomas R. Bailey, Marc Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Occupational students constitute the majority of enrollments at community colleges. Moreover, over the last 15 years, the "vocationalization" of the community college has been one of the most controversial trends in higher education. However, little is known about how the educational experiences of occupational students compare to those of academic students. This paper uses two Beginning Postsecondary Student Longitudinal studies (BPS89 and BPS96) to analyze the educational outcomes of sub-baccalaureate occupational students. Our findings suggest that occupational students pursuing an associate degree complete their degree goals less often than their academic counterparts. Part of this difference can be explained by differences in student characteristics and expectations, but the gap remains after controlling these factors. We conclude that community colleges have yet to figure out and implement the optimal approach to providing direct occupational preparation within an institutional structure that continues to rest on a foundation oriented towards academic education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-212
Number of pages16
JournalEconomics of Education Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Demand for schooling
  • Educational attainment
  • Human capital
  • Two-year colleges

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Economics and Econometrics


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