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Home » About the Clearinghouse » Media Center » Only 60,000 of More Than 1 Million Community College Students Transferred With a Credential, Research Center's Transfer and Mobility Report Reveals

Only 60,000 of More Than 1 Million Community College Students Transferred With a Credential, Research Center’s Transfer and Mobility Report Reveals

Aug 8, 2018 | Media Center, Press Releases, Research News

New Report Includes Patterns by Race and Ethnicity for First Time

HERNDON, VA — (Aug. 8, 2018) — Only 60,000 students out of more than 1 million who started postsecondary education at a two-year institution transferred after receiving a certificate or an associate’s degree, and more than 350,000 community college students transferred to another institution without a degree, according to a new report released today by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011 Cohort, report also shows that two-year institutions served almost 1.5 million students in the fall 2011 cohort, including those who started in four-year institutions and transferred to a two-year institution. This figure represents more than half of the entire cohort and all transfers, indicating that two-year institutions not only served most of the cohort, but also most of the transfer population as well. The fall 2011 cohort consisted of 2.8 million, first-time students enrolled in a four-year or two-year, public or private institution.

“Community colleges play an incredibly important role in our higher education ecosystem, but this new research shows only a small number of community college students transfer to a four-year institution with a credential,” said Jason Taylor, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy, University of Utah. “The research also suggests that hundreds of thousands of community college transfer students could benefit from reverse transfer programs that help them complete associate’s degrees they’ve earned.”

In addition, within their first six years, more than 1 million of the 2.8 million students continued their studies at a different institution, resulting in an overall transfer rate of 38 percent. Almost two in five of the students who began their post-secondary career in fall 2011 enrolled in more than one institution within six years before earning a bachelor’s degree.

“The national transfer statistics show that student mobility is diverse and complex,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the Research Center. “This report helps institutions go beyond first-time, full-time cohorts to understand non-traditional students, part-time and full-time, who transfer in and out of multiple institutions.”

The report analyzes student enrollment patterns across two-year and four-year, public and private institutions, and examines the distribution of transfer and mobility across state lines and over multiple years. For the first time, this report also includes transfer patterns disaggregated by race and ethnicity, providing insight into how different populations and traditionally underrepresented groups navigate the postsecondary pipeline in comparison to their peers.

Other findings include:

  • The transfer rate for students who started at a four-year institution, regardless of sector, was slightly higher (38.5 percent) than for students who started at a two-year institution (37.1 percent). For those who started at a two-year public institution, 5.6 percent of students transferred after earning a degree at their starting institution.
  • Student mobility often involves out-of-state transfers. Out of all students who transferred, regardless of the starting institution, the out-of-state transfer rate was 27.2 percent.
  • Asian, Black, Hispanic and White students had similar overall mobility rates, but different patterns of origin and destination institutions.
  • Of those who transferred from a two-year institution, Asian and White students were more likely to transfer into four-year institutions (49.8 percent and 50.4 percent, respectively) than Black and Hispanic students (33.2 percent and 39.5 percent, respectively).
  • Among those who transferred from a four-year to a two-year institution, Asian and White students were more likely to have done so during the summer only (45.6 percent and 40.6 percent, respectively) than Black and Hispanic students (26.5 percent and 32.8 percent, respectively).
  • Out of all four to two-year transfers, more than one in three were summer swirlers (36.1 percent) who returned to their starting institution in the fall. This strategy was found, in an earlier Clearinghouse report, to be correlated to higher degree completion rates at the starting institution.
  • The primary transfer destination for two-year starters was a four-year institution (50.5 percent of transfers) whereas the primary destination for four-year starters was a two-year institution (59.2 percent of transfers).

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more, visit