New report finds Washington ranks 5th in nation in percentage of students graduating with AA degrees who go on to receive BA

Washington relies heavily on its community and technical college system, educating a higher share of college students in the two-year programs than most states. The Seattle Times today reports on a new study that finds the state also ranks among the top in the number of students students moving from the two-year programs to four-year schools to receive their BA degrees. (Report and data tables here.) Times education reporter Katherine Long writes:

When it comes to using community college as a launchpad to a four-year degree, Washington is one of the top states in the nation.

Washington ranks fifth among the states in the percentage of students who received an associate degree, then went on to get a bachelor’s degree, according to a recent study by National Student Clearinghouse.

The study finds that 47.5 percent of Washington students receiving an AA in 2009-10 went on to receive a four-year degree.

Only Utah, Florida, New Jersey and Idaho did better. The national average is 41 percent.

That’s good but should be read in context with another report we referenced in January which similarly found a high completion rate for Washington students moving from two-year to four-year schools, but reported that many students did not make the transfer. The new study offers a possible explanation, as the Times reports,

Washington was only about average when it came to the four-year completion rate for students who got their associate degrees when they were 20 and under — right out of high school, when continuing an education is usually easier.

About 62 percent of those students went on to get a bachelor’s degree. The national average for that age group is 61 percent.

The report we linked to in January, published by the Community College Research Center, examined students who began their postsecondary education at a two-year school in 2007 and reported on whether they’d completed their bachelor’s degree within six years. The new report finds that Washington does a superior job with older students, a group possibly underrepresented in the CCRC analysis. From the Times story today:

Yet almost half — 49 percent — of Washington students who got their associate degrees when they were between 20 and 24 went on to get a bachelor’s. The national average is 43 percent, Shapiro said.

Education research provides mounds of data. And the numbers will often vary as a result of different metrics, time spans, definitions, and populations. So it’s not surprising that the Times reports that state data tell yet another story.

Washington’s own figures show that 82 percent of students who earn a specific associate degree called a Direct Transfer Agreement, or DTA, and who transfer into a four-year college, complete their bachelor’s degrees. The DTA degree is designed to transfer to most bachelor of arts programs at all Washington four-year colleges and universities, and gives students priority consideration in admissions to most humanities and social-science majors at public universities.

Not inconsistent – just another way of examining the data.

Our Achieve objective emphasizes: 

By 2020, 70 percent of Washington jobs will require postsecondary education or training. Preparing our students for these opportunities requires high-quality education at every level.

As these reports demonstrate, our state’s community and technical college system plays a key role in that preparation.