Community college students who earn bachelor's degrees earn more than their peers in similar fields who earn only an associate degree, according to a new study from New America, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
The report examines the demographics and labor market outcomes of Florida College System graduates who earned bachelor's degrees and compared them to students who earned associate degrees in similar fields.
Florida passed legislation that lets community colleges offer bachelor's degree programs nearly 20 years ago. All but one institution in the Florida College System offer at least one bachelor's degree program, making Florida the national leader in offering community college baccalaureate programs.
More than 40,000 students were enrolled in one of these programs in the 2016-17 academic year, the middle year of the data analyzed in the report.
The students who earned bachelor's degrees earned about $10,000 more annually than their peers with associate degrees one year after graduation, the report found.
The wage premium varies based on demographics, though. Men earn more than women across nearly all areas of study. While men with associate degrees also earn more than their female peers, the pay gaps are greater at the baccalaureate level, according to the report.
Community college graduates who earn bachelor's degrees also tend to be older than their peers who earned associate degrees or who received bachelor's degrees from a state university, the report states. More than half of the community college baccalaureate graduates were 30 or over, compared to 45 percent of those who earned associate degrees.
The racial and ethnic composition of baccalaureate graduates is similar to that of Florida's general population for most groups, the report states. The share of Black, white and Asian American students who earned bachelor's degrees fell within one percentage point of each group's share of state residents. However, Latinx people are underrepresented by six percentage points.