Valuable Learning or “Spinning Their Wheels”? Understanding Excess Credits Earned by Community College Associate Degree Completers


Objective:Excess credits earned by college students, over and above those required to complete their programs of study, have become increasingly a subject of interest and concern. There has been almost no research on the extent of these credits. This study focuses on all of the associate degree programs within one state?s community college system and measures the extent of excess credits within each program.Method:I created a measure of the number of excess credits earned relative to all credits earned and measured the extent to which colleges and programs vary in the levels of excess credits. Within particular academic programs, such as business, nursing, and general studies, I generated measures of the extent to which program-related and general education courses create excess credits. I examined the transcripts of some students who have earned excess credits, to see specifically what they did.Results:I take no normative position on the usefulness or harm of excess credits, but instead explore some of the factors that may generate them.Contribution:I suggest some policies that might be implemented to reduce excess credits, if desired.

Community College Review