Research in Higher Education

, Volume 51, Issue 8, pp 724–749

The Bird’s Eye View of Community Colleges: A Behavioral Typology of First-Time Students Based on Cluster Analytic Classification


DOI: 10.1007/s11162-010-9180-5

Cite this article as:
Bahr, P.R. Res High Educ (2010) 51: 724. doi:10.1007/s11162-010-9180-5


The development of a typology of community college students is a topic of long-standing and growing interest among educational researchers, policy-makers, administrators, and other stakeholders, but prior work on this topic has been limited in a number of important ways. In this paper, I develop a behavioral typology based on students’ course-taking and other enrollment patterns during a seven-year observation period. Drawing on data for a population of 165,921 first-time college students, I identify six clusters of behaviors: transfer, vocational, drop-in, noncredit, experimental, and exploratory. I describe each of these student types in terms of distinguishing course-taking and enrollment behaviors, representation in the first-time student cohort, predominant demographic characteristics, and self-reported academic goal. I test the predictive validity of the classification scheme with respect to long-term academic outcomes. I investigate the relationships between the primary classification scheme and several alternative classification schemes. Finally, I demonstrate the replicability of the classification scheme with an alternate cohort of students.


Community college Student Taxonomy Typology Classification Cluster analysis Transfer Persistence Retention Experimental Exploratory Vocational Noncredit 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary EducationUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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