Document Type

Policy Brief

Publication Date



Institutions in the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) offer programs that lead to technical certificates of credit (certificates), diplomas, and associate degrees. TCSG uses tiered standards to place students into courses for these programs. The standards consist of minimum thresholds for several common skills and aptitude tests, including the ACCUPLACER, SAT, and ACT, with progressively higher standards applying to required courses for certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs. This multi-measure, tiered system is intended to ensure each student has the appropriate math and language skills to succeed in the student’s chosen program. This report from Michael D. Bloem, David C. Ribar, and Jonathan Smith analyzed how placement test results and other student characteristics are associated with students’ program choices, program completion, and post-program outcomes. It examines students who enrolled in TCSG award programs in the Fall 2013 term through the Summer 2020 term. The authors have three main findings:

  1. Some students are more likely to enroll in particular programs. Women, White students, older students, and students without high school diplomas have high rates of enrollment in certificate programs. Men, Black students, and economically-disadvantaged students have high rates in diploma programs. Younger and economically-disadvantaged students have high rates in associate degree programs.
  2. Placement test scores are only moderately associated with program enrollments and certificate and degree program completion.
  3. Initial program level is an important predictor of whether students complete a credential and what type of credential they obtain, although a plurality of students at each initial program level earns a certificate.