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Chicago Fed Letter, No. 242, September 2007
Measuring Community College Performance

Community colleges enroll almost half of all undergraduate students in the United States. The colleges were originally chartered as “junior colleges,” offering the first two years of a four-year college degree at considerably lower cost than other institutions. However, the overall mission of community colleges has expanded significantly. Today, in addition to the original charter, community colleges provide workforce training, contract training for industry, academic remediation to prepare students for college-level study, “developmental” education for those lacking high school credentials and English proficiency and enrichment courses for adults. In many ways community colleges act as multiproduct firms, where different programs or products compete for available resources and where success might be defined and measured differently for each one. Given their multiple educational roles, how should we analyze outcomes from community college programs? The authors offer a framework to answer this vital question.

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