Alexandria Digital Research Library

Distance education, applied STEM, and tuition-free community college : a three-part policy examination in higher education

Sublett, Cameron M.
Degree Supervisor:
Michael A. Gottfried
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Education policy and Community college education
Free Tuition
Education Policy
Applied STEM
Community College
Cooling Out
Distance Education
Online resources and Dissertations, Academic
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Education
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

The current dissertation is composed of three studies that use large, nationally representative data and various quantitative methods to explore three education policies or trends that, to varying degrees, affect the lives of community college students. The first study looks at the relationship between distance education coursetaking and time to completion among first time community college students. The study uses large, representative data and propensity score matching to mitigate the impact of self-selection. Results indicated that students who completed at least one distance education course during their first year of study completed their bachelor's degrees, on average, 3 months sooner than similar students who did not take a distance education course. Policy implications for distance education and community college leadership are discussed.

The second study examines applied STEM coursetaking among high school students. In particular, the second study looks to identify the coupling between applied STEM coursetaking in high school and STEM coursetaking in college. This analysis uses representative, longitudinal data and instrumental variables estimation (IVE). Results indicated that students who took applied STEM courses in high school completed more courses and earned more units in engineering and technology in college compared to similar students who did not take applied STEM. This relationship held even after looking just at students' first year of coursetaking; students who completed applied STEM took more courses and earned more units in engineering and technology. These findings were particularly strong for students who began college at a 2-year, community college as opposed to students who began at a 4-year school. These findings as well as the policy implications related to them are discussed.

The third study takes place in the policy context of the free community college movement. As more politicians "promise" free tuition to students, this study explores the "cooling out function of community colleges" and tests whether students who experience a cool out, which is characterized as a diversion in degree expectations from a baccalaureate-oriented degree to a terminal degree, are less likely to earn their degrees or transfer. Furthermore, this study looks at the interaction between experiencing a cool out and receiving free tuition. Results indicated that students who experienced a cool out exhibited reduced odds of degree completion and transfer and that receiving free tuition did not mitigate the negative impact of cooling out. Policy implications follow.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (161 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Cameron Sublett
Access: This item is restricted to on-campus access only. Please check our FAQs or contact UCSB Library staff if you need additional assistance.