In 2015–16, 33 percent of all undergraduates who completed a postsecondary credential earned an associate degree and 16 percent earned a sub-baccalaureate certificate. In fact, the majority of American Indian or Alaska Native (59 percent), Hispanic or Latino (59 percent), and Black or African American (57 percent) graduates earned an associate degree or sub-baccalaureate certificate. Many of these associate degrees and sub-baccalaureate awards were in a career or technical field.

Career and technical education (CTE) provides students at the secondary, postsecondary, and adult education levels with opportunities to develop the academic, technical, and employability skills needed to be successful in today’s workforce. At the postsecondary level, credit-based CTE can be defined as “coursework directly related to an occupational field that, upon completion, can lead to industry-recognized credentials, certificates, and/or associate degrees” (D’Amico, Sublett, and Bartlett II 2019, 3).[1] While CTE programs provide millions of students with the opportunity to receive an education that will prepare them to meet local labor market needs, racial disparities exist within CTE program enrollment, completion, and labor market outcomes (Rios-Aguilar et al. 2019).[2]

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Associate Degrees, by Sector

Between 2015 and 2017, close to 3 million associate degrees were awarded. Public two-year institutions conferred nearly 82 percent of all associate degrees. Degree-granting for-profit institutions conferred the second most, at 9.4 percent. Black or African American and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students were much more likely than all other groups to complete their associate degrees at degree-granting for-profit institutions.

[1] D’Amico, Mark M., Cameron M. Sublett, and James E. Bartlett II. 2019. Preparing the Workforce in Today’s Community Colleges: Issues and Implications for Higher Education Leaders. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

[2] Rios-Aguilar, Cecilia, Ryan Wells, David Bills, and Diana D. Lopez. 2019. “The (Mis)match Between Sub-Baccalaureate Credentials and Middle-Skill Jobs: A Community College Spatial Research Agenda.” New Directions for Institutional Research 2018, no. 180 (Winter): 39–58.