Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Westefeld, John S

First Committee Member

Altmaier, Elizabeth

Second Committee Member

Liu, William M

Third Committee Member

Ali, Saba R

Fourth Committee Member

Bills, David

Fifth Committee Member

Allen, Jeff


There is a significant degree of controversy surrounding the transfer mission of community colleges. Specifically, many researchers have suggested that these institutions divert the educational attainments, and thus social mobility, of disadvantaged groups (Brint & Karabel, 1989; Dougherty, 1987, 1992, 1994; Karabel, 1972). Others suggest that community colleges provide disadvantaged individuals, who would have otherwise failed to consider a postsecondary education, with a viable path by which to attain a four-year degree (Cohen & Brawer, 1996; Hilmer, 1997; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). This study sought to determine whether the path to social mobility, via educational attainment, differed for bachelor's degree aspirants who commenced their postsecondary education at a community college, versus a four-year institution, in terms of enrollment outcomes three-years later (i.e., at a four-year institution, a selective or highly-selective four-year institution, and/or a privately-controlled four-year institution). Specifically, hierarchical logistic regression analyses were used to determine whether the effect of initial enrollment location on the odds of year-four enrollment outcomes depended on student characteristics (i.e., race/ethnicity, generational status, family income, prior academic achievements, and/or psychosocial factors) among a large representative sample of students who started their postsecondary education at either a community college or a four-year institution in the fall semester of 2003. Results suggest that student characteristics do not detrimentally modify the effect of initial community college enrollment on students' odds of later enrollment outcomes. In addition, the results suggest that after accounting for the effects of initial enrollment location and other predictors, the effect of standardized test scores appears to significantly increase the odds of being enrolled at a selective or highly selective four-year institution for students who initially matriculated to a community college rather than a four-year institution. The findings are discussed in terms of implications for consumers of higher education, vocational psychologists, as well as postsecondary institutions and educational policy.


Educational Attainment, Postsecondary Education, Psychosocial Factors, Social Mobility, Student Characteristics, Vocational Psychology


viii, 177 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 157-170).


Copyright 2009 Christopher John Button