Paper Explores Challenges That Come With Transfers From Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

While a community college pathway reduces the likelihood of obtaining a bachelor’s degree, a new paper from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) shows that it does not significantly impact students’ labor market performance in the short term.

The paper looks at the influence a community college pathway can have on students’ baccalaureate success, as well as how well they perform in the labor market. Using administrative data from Virginia and several previously published studies, the paper’s authors examined a variety of factors that can lead to low completion of bachelor’s degrees among community college students, including the impact two-year attendance can have on academic progress, the challenges that come with selecting and enrolling in a four-year institution, potential loss of credit at the point of transfer, and what the authors refer to as post-transfer academic “shock.”

According to the authors, the low likelihood of bachelor’s degree completion among community college students “is driven primarily by the fact that many otherwise successful community college students never enter a four-year transfer destination.” The paper shows that less than one-fourth of community college students who aspire to a bachelor’s degree ever enroll in a four-year institution.

Students who do transfer from a two-year institution to a four-year institution have financial benefits “comparable to … those of ‘native four-year students,” the authors note, adding that their cost-benefit analysis shows that two-year students “fare as well or better” than their four-year counterparts in the eight years after college entry, partly due to the lower costs of community college.

The results of the paper suggest that the key to increasing transfer rates and the success of transfer students lies in strong partnerships between community colleges, states, and transfer destinations.


Publication Date: 5/5/2016

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