New Data Shows Varying Rates of Decline for Student Transfers 

Related Topics in the Ref Desk: Enrollment Status

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Over the course of the first full academic year of the pandemic, institutions of higher education lost 191,500 transfer students, a markedly stark decline that nearly tripled the previous year’s losses in which current trends show significant racial inequities.

Those findings are a part of a new report from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, who have conducted numerous studies on enrollment trends in the past year.

In their latest report — focusing on the 2.1 million undergraduate students who transferred to a college other than their last enrolled institution between July 2020 and June 2021 — the transfer pathways considered were defined broadly to include instances of upward, lateral, and reverse transfer.

Within those pathways both reverse and lateral transfers suffered double-digit drops, but upward transfer held up relatively well. According to the data this was attributable to an unusually high number of two-year college students moving to highly selective four-year institutions during the pandemic, irrespective of gender, race and ethnicity, or transferring within states or into different states.

Yet there were clear disparities in student mobility: upward transfers for Asian and Latinx students grew by 5.9% and 1.4%, respectively, but Black and Native American students fell by 6.1% and 4.1%, respectively. The decline of White students was consistent with the previous year’s rate of a 4.4% drop.

Additionally transfer enrollment fell significantly more for male students with a 12.1% drop compared to a 5.8% decline in female students.

Over this academic year, upward transfer inflows grew at highly selective colleges and a few leading primarily-online institutions, the persistence rate of transfers to the subsequent term, according to National Student Clearinghouse, appears to have suffered.

On the institutional level Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) had substantial transfer student losses of 11.8% or 70,400 students while Historically Black Colleges and Universities remained largely unaffected.

One minor bright spot for enrollment trends in the report concerned upward transfers, moving from two-year to four-year schools, that only experienced 11,900 student losses (a 1.3% decline) with pandemic driven losses in this category showing an increase in spring 2021.


Publication Date: 9/2/2021

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