Scaling up community college baccalaureates in Washington State: Labor market outcomes and equity implications for higher education




community college, higher education, baccalaureate, labor market outcomes, career-technical education


Community and technical colleges in Washington state were early adopters in the growing trend to offer bachelor’s degrees, actively expanding these degrees over the last 15 years. This study describes the evolving state policy landscape on community college baccalaureate (CCB) degrees in Washington in certain programs previously classified as terminal career-technical education and assesses labor market outcomes for graduates of three high-demand program areas conferring these degrees. Comparing bachelor’s graduates of community colleges to regional university graduates, CCB graduates demonstrated slightly higher employment and earnings in the first quarter post-graduation. However, university graduates caught up to approximately the same or slightly higher earnings as CCB graduates by three years post-graduation. Differences in age and prior work experience of graduates in the two groups may help explain these findings but variation in employment and earnings by gender and race were persistent for both groups, with pronounced disparities for female and some racially minoritized graduates. These findings can inform state policy on baccalaureate attainment, CCB degrees as well as university bachelor’s degrees, to help address inequities in higher education. Future studies evaluating the effects of college degrees on employment and earnings may also be enriched by these results.


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Author Biographies

Elizabeth Apple Meza, University of Washington

Dr. Meza is a Sr. research scientist at the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington. A former community college faculty member and administrator, her research expertise centers around workforce development, career and technical education, mixed methods research designs, and community college baccalaureates.

Debra D. Bragg, Bragg And Associates, Inc.

Debra D. Bragg is Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor emerita and founding director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and founding director of Community College Research Initiatives at the University of Washington. Dr. Bragg’s research focuses on P-20 transitions from K-12 education to community colleges and universities, as well as employment. She has led national studies on policy reforms associated with dual enrollment, college and career readiness, career pathways, career and technical education, high-performing transfer partnerships, and community college baccalaureates.




How to Cite

Meza, E. A., & Bragg, D. D. (2022). Scaling up community college baccalaureates in Washington State: Labor market outcomes and equity implications for higher education. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30, (140).