Are Colleges Doing Enough to Support Transfer Students?

Aug 19, 2011

Community colleges offer their students a variety of career training and educational opportunities. However, 2-year degree and certificate programs are the most common programs available at community colleges. According to a new study, most community college students are aiming higher than these lower-level degrees.

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By Sarah Wright

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A Different Research Perspective

In July 2011, the College Board released the results of a survey conducted among 21 administrators from 12 different 4-year colleges. The final report on the study, titled 'Improving Student Transfer From Community Colleges to Four-Year Institutions,' reveals some interesting insights into the way community college transfer students are perceived by college admissions staff.

The 12 schools chosen for the survey were targeted due to their positive attitude toward transfer students. In the study's preface, it is noted that most research on the issue of community college transfers focuses on the role of the 2-year school, rather than on the 4-year school. This study aims to take a look at the role the 4-year school, a 'pivotal gatekeeper' for transfer students, handles its transfer applicants and students who come from community colleges. The study is specifically focused on the relationship between the community college and the 4-year institution.

Interesting Revelations

Among the interesting information contained in the report is the revelation that most community college students enter school with the ultimate goal of earning a bachelor's degree. In order to accomplish this, of course, these students will need to attend a school that grants baccalaureate degrees, which means that most of these students will need to transfer.

This information isn't exactly a new revelation - it wasn't part of the College Board study's findings, but rather was part of at least two Department of Education studies conducted in the 2000s. One such study revealed that 50% of community college students had a 'primary goal' of earning a bachelor's, and an additional 21% listed this accomplishment as a 'secondary goal.'

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Transfers are a Safe Bet

Overall, the survey participants reported a generally positive opinion of transfer students from community college. Frank Ashley of the Texas A&M University System was quoted in the study as saying that 'transfer students are proven' - meaning that they are a safe selection for admissions committees. Because transfer students from community colleges have already proven themselves to be capable of completing academic work in a higher education setting, they come with a lower attrition or failure factor. Ashley describes these students as 'a good investment.'

Still, this doesn't mean that all transfer students are guaranteed a successful and enjoyable experience once they get on the baccalaureate degree track. Because they are pre-determined to be reliable students, there was a belief among survey respondents that transfer students might not be getting the support they need. The report suggests that orientation for transfers tends to be shorter and less detailed than traditional students' orientation. One suggestion from the report is that more effort should be made to ease community college transfers into their new school's culture.

There's been a recent trend of California community college students transferring to schools in other states.

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