Investigating Completion through the Lens of Student Course-Taking

2012-2013  |  RP Group & Peter Riley Bahr, University of Michigan

Application of Peter Riley Bahr's cluster analysis of course-taking patterns by California community college students to the discussion of improving completion outcomes.

California’s community college system encompasses a broad-ranging vision for higher education. Yet, as resources dwindle, the conversation about what constitutes success has focused on those outcomes that can be counted easily. Completion—defined as the attainment of degrees and certificates or transfer to a four-year institution—is increasingly becoming the yardstick for effectiveness.  

But does completion capture the full impact of community colleges? And if community colleges desire to demonstrate their effect on students more broadly, what should they be measuring? This project looks at the question of completion through the lens of course-taking behavior, based on a study by Peter Riley Bahr of the University of Michigan for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. Bahr identified several types of pathways that California community college students tend to take, where these pathways are more likely to lead, and characteristics of students who were more likely to be in each group.

Click on the links below to download a ten-page inquiry guide about Bahr's findings, a methodology for replicating Bahr's study at an individual institution, or to read several articles by Bahr about his research.

The RP Group and LearningWorks are hosting a free webinar on the report on October 31, 2012 from 11-12. Click here for details.


Three academic papers that analyze course-taking patterns in California community colleges.
Application of Bahr's research to the California community colleges conversations on success and a simplified methodology to replicate a course-taking analysis.