In the 2013-14 academic year, 46 percent of students who completed a four-year degree were enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous 10 years.

The Role of Two-Year Institutions in Four-Year Success

In the 2013-14 academic year, 46 percent of students who completed a degree at a four-year institution were enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous 10 years. This is a one percentage point increase over the comparable figure for degrees awarded in 2010-11. The prior two-year enrollment may have been brief (as little as a single course) and the two-year institution may or may not have been the first one the student attended. As shown below, 21 percent of students previously enrolled at two-year institutions were enrolled for only one term. In 14 states, more than half of four-year degree recipients were previously enrolled at a two-year institution.

Percentage of Students Completing Degrees at Four-Year Institutions Who Previously Enrolled at Two-Year Institutions*

*Students were considered enrolled at two-year institutions if they had at least one full-time or part-time enrollment at a two-year institution prior to the four-year completion date. Note: The state shown is the state in which the degree was awarded. The prior two-year enrollments may have occurred in any state. The institution levels are based on 2013 IPEDS institutional characteristics, with the Florida College System being the only exception. The 28 schools in that system offer four-year degrees, but all are categorized as two-year institutions for this analysis, meaning their enrollments are counted as contributing to four-year awards elsewhere, but their own awards are not counted in the denominator. This is in keeping with their traditional role as a primary point of access to higher education.


Recency of Two-Year Enrollment

46 percent of all students who completed a degree at a four-year institution in the 2013-14 academic year, had been enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous ten years. In some cases (17%) the two-year enrollment occurred within the last year of study before earning the degree. Over half of these students completed the four-year degree within three years of leaving the two-year institution. More than three quarters of them did so within five years.

Number of Years Between Degree Completion at Four-Year Institution and Most Recent Prior Enrollment at Two-Year Institution


Duration of Two-Year Enrollment

In the 2013-14 academic year, 46 percent of all students who completed a degree at a four-year institution had been enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous ten years. Over one-fifth of these students were enrolled in two-year institutions for a single term. Nearly half of them were enrolled for five or more terms.

Number of Enrolled Terms at Two-Year Institutions Prior to Degree Completion at Four-Year Institution*

*Terms in this analysis are institutionally-defined, so term length varies. The average term length was 106 days.