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January/February 2010, 
Vol. 92, No. 1
Posted 2010-01-04

Community Colleges and Economic Mobility

by Natalia A. Kolesnikova

This article examines the role of community colleges in the U.S. higher education system and their advantages and shortcomings. In particular, it discusses the population of community college students and economic returns to community college education for various demographic groups. It offers new evidence on the returns to an associate’s degree. Furthermore, the article uses data from the National Survey of College Graduates to compare educational objectives, progress, and labor market outcomes of individuals who start their postsecondary education at community colleges with those who start at four-year colleges. Particular attention is paid to the Federal Reserve’s Eighth District, the geographic area served by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.