Transfer Student? You’re Not Alone, According to New Report

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As national debate continues to grow over national efforts to increase community college enrollment, a report released this week by The National Student Clearinghouse Research center shows that more than a third of college students who started school in 2008 transferred at least once by 2014.

While students often lose credits and take longer to graduate after transferring, a reason that academic advisers frequently discourage moving, the study reflects that many students often look at their education as a fluid experience rather than a direct path, despite the difficulties and added expense that transferring schools creates for students.

Among the finding of the report:

  • Nearly one in five transfers among students who started in two-year public colleges, and nearly a quarter of transfers from four-year publics, occurred across state lines.
  • Students who had a combination of full- and part-time enrollment had the highest transfer and mobility rates, while exclusively part-time students were the most likely to stay put.
  • More than half of those transferring from four-year public colleges and more than 40 percent of those coming from four-year private colleges transferred to community colleges.

Summer also showed a time of great movement, when about a quarter of student moves happened when students enrolled in baccalaureate-granting institutions took summer classes at their local community colleges to accumulate credits needed for graduation at a lower cost.

While this suggests that students are making the adjustment to community colleges in large part because of more affordable costs, the report also documents the number of students who transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions without first getting an associate degree.

That puts them at risk of ending up empty-handed with no degree at all if they drop out later. That outcome, the report suggests, is increasingly likely, as the report showed that of the students tracked from 2008, only 55 percent had earned a certificate or degree six years later.

As politicians and educators look for ways to increase college enrollment, it will be important to note the ways that students move between schools and try to create processes to remove the hurdles that transferring students must clear, whatever the reason for their transfer.

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