Public 2-year institutions serve a diverse body of students who enroll with a variety of educational goals. Associate’s degree completion rates are only partially valid as a measure of student success at public 2-year institutions, because it is not necessary to complete an associate’s degree before transferring to a 4-year institution. During their first year, about one-half of the beginning students at public 2-year colleges said that they intended to attain an associate’s degree, and another one-fourth intended to transfer to a 4-year institution and complete a bachelor’s degree. In the following years, about one-fourth of the beginners at public 2-year institutions did transfer to a 4-year institution.
Of the three-fourths of beginners at public 2-year institutions who intended to complete either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, 31 percent did so within 6 years: 23 percent completed an associate’s degree, and 13 percent completed a bachelor’s degree (these percentages include the 5 percent who completed both). Among those students who actually did transfer to a 4-year institution, 36 percent attained a bachelor’s degree within 6 years of starting community college (see figure).