Reassessing the Two-Year Sector’s Role in the Amelioration of a Persistent Socioeconomic Gap: A Proposed Analytical Framework for the Study of Community College Effects in the Big and Geocoded Data and Quasi-Experimental Era

  • Manuel S. González Canché
Part of the Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research book series (HATR, volume 33)


The purpose of this chapter is threefold. First, it provides a comprehensive and systematic review of extant research on the educational and occupational outcomes associated with community college attendance. This literature review prioritizes (but is not limited to) comparisons of outcomes attained by students who began college enrollment in the public two- and four-year sectors. The second purpose is to provide a critique of this line of research concerning its methodological rigor by highlighting the emergence of big and geocoded data availability and statistical applications that deal with systematic differences between two- and four-year entrants. As part of this purpose, a comprehensive and innovative analytic framework is provided for researchers and practitioners to utilize when comparing these student populations. Finally, the third purpose is to apply this analytic framework to a topic that, while timely, has remained underdiscussed in the study of two-year sector effects. Specifically, this section analyzes the influence of initial community college enrollment on undergraduate loan debt accumulation by comparing different enrollment pathways and levels of educational attainment. The chapter concludes with a discussion of challenges and opportunities in the use of big and geocoded data in higher education policy along with future and innovative lines of research that involve the use of spatial econometrics, geographical network analysis, and quasi-experimental design as means to detect structural mechanism that would enable two-year entrants to navigate college with greater likelihood of success.


Community Colleges Undergraduate loan cost of attendance Social stratification Achievement gap Complete College America U.S. international competitiveness Social inequality Democratizing function Geographical network analysis Big and geocoded data Quasi-experimental techniques Quasi-causal estimates Data science in Higher Education Georeferenced omitted variable bias Counterfactual or potential outcomes framework Overfitting and inflated propensities 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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