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


New Report Includes Patterns by Race and Ethnicity for First Time

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
  • 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,
    • 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,

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