Washington state ranks in the top five for the percentage of its students who receive an associate degree and then go on to complete a bachelor’s, a new study shows.
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 Clearinghouse, which compiles one of the most complete sets of college-completion data in the country, found that of the 14,183 students who received an associate degree in Washington in 2009-2010, 6,739 went on to earn a bachelor’s degree — about 47.5 percent.
Only Utah, Florida, New Jersey and Idaho did better. The national average is 41 percent.
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Doug Shapiro, a researcher with the National Student Clearinghouse, said Washington stood out in particular for the number of slightly older students who earned a bachelor’s degree after getting an associate degree.
The older you get, the harder it is to complete a four-year degree because older students “have more complicated lives,” Shapiro said. They’re more likely to have families, for example, or other obligations that keep them from finishing college.
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.
The flip side: 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.
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.
Shapiro also praised Florida for having a strong commitment to its community colleges and for enacting policies that make it easier for students to continue their educations after community college. In Florida, 55 percent of the 50,537 students who were awarded an associate degree in 2009-10 went on to receive a bachelor’s degree.
The National Student Clearinghouse is considered one of the best sources of data for college completion because, among other things, it collects the data to help employers validate whether a student received a degree. Its records include students who went to college part time, or dropped out and then started up again. Federal data is collected only for first-time, full-time students.