According to the study, community colleges play a far lesser role in northeastern states like Delaware and New Hampshire, where just 22 percent of those with bachelor's degrees took community college courses.
Gary Davidson, executive director of the Oklahoma Association for Community Colleges, said he couldn't be sure why community colleges play a greater role in states like Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas than elsewhere. But he suspects the size of those states may be a factor.
States like Oklahoma and Texas have populations that are spread out across all corners of the state, he said, and many areas in both states are sparsely populated. That means college could present a challenge for a student who lives in a remote part of the state and isn't able to relocate to go to school.
Community colleges also offer a good option for students who aren't prepared for a four-year university their freshman year. Community colleges are open enrollment, he said, meaning they take any student who is interested in attending.
They also tend to be cheaper than four-year schools, which can be helpful for students who receive federal student aid, he said. Students who begin their academic careers at community colleges use up less of their aid packages than those who go immediately to a four-year school.
“Excellence doesn't have to be exclusive and it doesn't have to be expensive,” he said.