In Major Shift, Upward Transfers Suffer 11.6% Decline This Spring
HERNDON, VA – (May 3, 2022) – The latest COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress report, shows that in spring 2022, undergraduate transfer enrollment dropped another 6.9% over last year, resulting in a total two-year decline of 16% since the beginning of the pandemic. Non-transfer enrollment also continued a downward trend, but the one-year declines were not as steep as among transfer students (-3.8% for non-transfer students).
Most notable this spring are steep declines in upward transfer enrollment—most likely a ripple effect of pandemic-related sharp enrollment drops at community colleges, impacting freshmen, continuing, and returning students alike. After remaining stable last year, the number of students moving from a two-year to a four-year institution dropped 11.6%, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report.
“This constriction of a key path to bachelor’s degree attainment is very concerning,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Lower-income students seeking more-affordable degree options are being squeezed out.”
All student groups declined in upward transfer enrollment, irrespective of age, gender, and race/ethnicity. The declines also affected all four-year colleges, regardless of selectivity level.
As a consequence, student groups have reversed the progress they made last year:
- -13.1% vs. +3.0% last spring for women;
- -7.2% vs. +4.5% last spring for students ages 18-20;
- -12.4% vs. +2.5% last spring for 30 or older;
- -11.1% vs. +3.1% last spring for Asian; and
- -10.2% vs. +3.2% last spring for Latinx.
Continued declines in every major racial and ethnic category throughout the pandemic resulted in a total two-year decline of 15 to 20% (-19.4% for White, -18.6% for Native American, -17.1% for Asian, -16.3% for Black, and -15.6% for Latinx).
Upward transfer enrollment declined 12.5% at highly selective colleges this spring, completely erasing last year’s gain (+3.7%) (see Figures 3, 4, 7 and 8).
The only transfer pathway that showed growth this spring was four-year lateral transfer, growing 5% to partly recover the 8.8% drop last year. The gains were limited to transfers into very competitive, competitive, and less selective institutions, while the highly selective colleges declined (+4.7%, +7.2%, +5.0%, and -4.1%, respectively). This pathway also increased last fall.
Two-year lateral and reverse transfer enrollments both continued to decline this spring, although at a slower pace (-11.1% vs. -13.8% last spring for two-year lateral transfer; -4.4% vs. -17.1% last spring for reverse transfer). Both cross-state and in-state transfers also fell, by 8.4% and 3.4%, respectively (see Figures 3, 4, and 6).
Continuing transfers fell at public and private nonprofit four-years (-5.4% and -9.7%, respectively) and community colleges (-4.7%). Private for-profit four-years however, experienced growth of 7.8% in continuing transfer enrollment, recovering partially from last year’s steep declines (-9.9%). Returning transfer enrollment also followed a declining path across all large institutional sectors this spring, with steeper drops seen among private nonprofit four-year and community college students (-9.5% and -11.4%, respectively) (see Figure 2).
The report’s findings are based on year-over-year changes within a fixed panel of institutions that represent 89.4% of the Clearinghouse universe of institutions and 11.2 million undergraduate students (including 632,000 transfer students) reported as of March 24, 2022.
The COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress Report series, with support from Ascendium Education Group and ECMC Foundation, identifies changes in student transfer pathways that are attributable to the pandemic by using historical data as the baseline and the Clearinghouse’s current enrollment data.
By providing the most up-to-date information about student transfer available online for free, the Research Center enables schools, institutions, organizations, and policymakers to better adapt and serve students, particularly those from the most vulnerable populations, during the pandemic and beyond.
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.
The Research Center currently collects data from more than 3,600 postsecondary institutions, which represent 97 percent of the nation’s postsecondary enrollments in degree-granting institutions, as of 2020. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org.