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National and State Community College Transfer Report Released

by NSC Blog | Sep 14, 2017 | Research Reports, Research Services, Signature Reports |

Fewer Students Transferring from Community Colleges to Four-year Institutions

Fewer students are transferring from community colleges to four-year colleges and universities, according to a new Signature Report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Findings reveal that out of 852,439 students who first enrolled at a community college in fall 2010, 31.5 percent (268,749) transferred to a four-year institution within six years. Previously, the transfer rate was 33 percent for the fall 2007 cohort.

In addition, the Research Center discovered that 18 percent of those who transferred went to an out-of-state institution. “This is surprisingly high,” said Afet Dundar, Director of the Research Center and one of the authors of the report, “especially given the rising number of local articulation agreements, state-wide transfer policies, and low in-state tuition at public four-year universities.”

The new Signature Report, Tracking Transfer: New Measures in Helping Community College Students to Attain Bachelor’s Degrees, enables states and institutions to track their progress year to year to better understand the impact of institutional characteristics, changing student demographics, enrollment trends, and the effectiveness of new policies and practices. This “Tracking Transfer” Signature Report is the first of what will be an annual series of reports released in this format.

“Out of all degree-seeking students who began at a community college, 13.3 percent earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, which is down from 14 percent three years ago,” said Doug Shapiro, Research Center Executive Director. “While the decrease is small, the direction of the change is not encouraging at a time when community colleges are increasingly viewed as vital access points to higher education.

“Institutions should consider these results as essential benchmarks in tracking and evaluating their progress toward better serving the transfer student population,” said Shapiro. “Although the statistics presented provide comparative state and national numbers, it is important to interpret these numbers within the context of the institution, current programs and initiatives, and key transfer partners.”

“Millions of students rely on community college to university transfer as a route to a bachelor’s degree…and a family-supporting career,” said Davis Jenkins, Senior Research Scholar Community College Research Center, Teachers College Columbia University. “Students say that the transfer process is a mess, but until now we haven’t had the numbers to back them up. This report gives colleges and universities the metrics they need to improve outcomes for students. As is clear from the report, most have a lot of work to do.”

The new report is an update of the ground-breaking January 2016 Transfer Tracking report, which was a collaboration among the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center; the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia; and Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. This 2017 report updates those outcomes by three years, using a new cohort of degree-seeking students who started their postsecondary education at a two-year public institution in the fall of 2010, and tracks their transfer and completion patterns at four-year institutions until spring 2016.

Clearinghouse data include more than 3,600 colleges and 96.7 percent of U.S. college enrollments, including 99.4 percent of enrollments in community colleges. Because of its unique student-level approach to data collection, the Clearinghouse data provide opportunities for analysis not afforded by commonly used institution-level, national databases.


“Institutions should consider these results as essential benchmarks in tracking and evaluating their progress toward better serving the transfer student population.”

Doug Shapiro
Research Center Executive Director

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