Community College Research Initiatives

New Baccalaureates

New forms of applied baccalaureate degrees are emerging throughout the United States, many of which focus on new and emerging occupations associated with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), career-technical education (CTE), and other fields of study. Many universities confer these degrees but increasingly they are conferred by community colleges that have historically awarded the associate’s degree as their highest credential. The CCRI group is grateful to the National Science Foundation, Advanced Technological Education program and Lumina Foundation for their generous funding of this research and development work.


Bragg, D. D., & Soler, M. C. (2017). Policy Narratives on Applied Baccalaureate Degrees: Implications for Student Access to and Progression Through College in the United States. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, 69(1), 123-146.

This article analyzes the perspectives of four stakeholder groups (community college personnel, university personnel, employers, and students) toward Applied Baccalaureate (AB) degrees in the U.S. using the Policy Narrative Framework (PNF). Findings show these stakeholder groups hold common as well as contrasting perspectives on the contributions of AB degrees to college access, college completion, and progression to employment. The authors predict that AB degrees will continue as a contested second-order change until they demonstrate results that are compelling enough to shift the key stakeholder groups to a consensus position.

Bragg, D. D., & Soler, M. C. (2016). Shining light on higher education’s newest baccalaureate degrees and the research needed to understand their impact. In X. Wang (Ed.), New Directions for Institutional Research, 170, 61-72.

This publication presents research on Applied Baccalaureate degrees that are designed to enable students to transfer applied college credits heretofore considered terminal to bachelor’s degree programs that prepare graduates for new and growing technical occupations. Methods and measures that are missing from institutional data systems that need to be developed to conduct meaningful research on these degrees are recommended.

Outcomes Evaluation of Applied Baccalaureate Degree Programs in STEM and Technical Education
March 2016
To address a gap in research and practice, this paper focuses on the need for high quality evaluations of AB degree programs. The report defines outcomes evaluation and explains why this type of evaluation is important to understanding the implementation and impact of AB degrees.

Applied Baccalaureate Degrees in STEM and Technician Education: Program Implementation in Five Regions of the United States
October 2015
This report provides a collection of five macro-level case studies, with each case including one to four institutional case studies. The report presents cases wherein institutions offer community college baccalaureate (CCB) degrees as well as partnerships involving community colleges and universities that confer either or both associate of applied science (AAS) and applied baccalaureate (AB) degrees.

Investigating Applied Baccalaureate Degree Pathways in Technician Education
March 2012
This document summarizes research conducted between May 2011 and January 2012, using a multi-pronged approach including surveys, website review, and document analysis to identify and characterize AB degree pathways affiliated with National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF-ATE) projects and centers. The findings provide insights into baccalaureate pathways in STEM fields and AB degree pathways that prepare technicians and technologists.

All or Nothing? Midpoint Credentials for Students Who Stop Short of the Baccalaureate Degree
November 2011
This paper reports results of a small-scale study undertaken to understand the accumulated credits of students who stop short of conferral of college degrees, particularly students who depart from universities at or beyond the mid-point of a baccalaureate degree (approximately 60-credits in the typical semester-based schedule). The study confirms that, for students for whom no credential emerges from college course-taking after a substantial amount of credits, revealing a significant gap in knowledge about student departure beyond the freshman year.

The Adult Learner and the Applied Baccalaureate: Lessons from Six States
May 2011
This report provides information about AB degrees in the United States in six states (Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington). The report describes a thematic analysis of AB degree policy and program degree implementation in areas such as STEM, public service, business, and other areas, including liberal arts and sciences.

The Adult Learner and the Applied Baccalaureate: Emerging Lessons for State and Local Implementation
January 2009
This policy brief draws upon results of a 50-state study to inventory applied baccalaureate degree pro- grams using data obtained from telephone interviews with state officials, and from Web sites, reports, legislation, and other materials provided by the states. The study reports on the status of applied baccalaureate (AB) programs offered by public associate degree-granting and traditional baccalaureate degree-granting colleges and universities.

The Adult Learner and the Applied Baccalaureate: National and State-by-State Inventory
October 2008
Viewing the AB as an approach to facilitate adult learners’ baccalaureate attainment, this report describes the current status of AB degree programs in the U.S. The report provides a state-by-state description of the extent to which the AB exists in public higher education institutions in the 50 states, with implications for federal, state, and local leaders and policymakers.