College Transfer Enrollment Grew by 5.3% in the Fall of 2023

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College Transfer Enrollment Grew by 5.3% in the Fall of 2023

Report Shows Community College Students Transferring to Four-Year Colleges Increased Nearly 8%

HERNDON, VA – (FEBRUARY 28, 2024) – College transfer enrollment grew in the fall of 2023 by 5.3 percent compared to fall 2022 (+62,600), according to the latest report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Transfer enrollment represents 13.2 percent of all continuing and returning undergraduates, up from 12.5 percent last year and 12.3 percent in fall 2021. Upward transfers from two-year to four-year institutions drove the growth, increasing by 7.7 percent, while lateral transfers grew 4.3 percent.

“Students are on the move again, and this is good news,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “More community college students entering bachelor’s programs this fall means greater access to four-year degrees, especially for those from lower-income backgrounds.”

The Research Center’s Transfer and Progress report provides data on undergraduate transfer enrollment and pathways and the mobility and progress of pandemic-impacted community college starters. The first portion of the report describes the enrollment, demographic characteristics, and transfer behaviors of 11.7 million undergraduate students in fall 2023, from a three-year fixed panel of institutions that consistently reported data in fall 2021 to 2023. Highlights of this section of the report include:

  • Disadvantaged students, including those from lower income backgrounds, Black and Hispanic groups, and from rural community colleges saw larger increases in transfer enrollment.
  • Returning students are increasingly attending a different institution from where they last enrolled (51.2% of returning students are transfers this year, up from 44.4% in 2021). The most frequent destination for these students were community colleges (+6.0%), primarily online institutions (+12.6%), and private for-profit four-year institutions (+20.7%).
  • Upward transfers increased the most at very competitive and at highly selective institutions (+13.1% and +7.8%, respectively). Lateral four-year transfers made the largest gains among less selective institutions (+10.8%).
  • Two-year college students from middle and low neighborhood income backgrounds made large gains in transfer enrollment to more selective four-year colleges.

The second section provides transfer-out rates, annual progress and six-year outcomes for cohorts of first-time community college students (6.4 million students across seven cohorts). Highlights of this section of the report include:

  • The fall 2022 cohort was 6.5 percent larger than the 2021 cohort. However, there were still over 100,000 fewer students entering community college in 2022 than in 2019, before the pandemic.
  • Despite large enrollment declines, upward transfer rates for 2020 starters rose above pre-pandemic levels in their second and third years of enrollment (+1.4 pp and +1.3 pp compared to 2019 cohort, respectively). For 2021 starters, second year upward transfer rates declined compared to the 2020 cohort (-0.4 pp to 5.7%) but still remained above pre-pandemic levels (+1.1 pp).

For the complete Transfer and Progress report, including change of majors and breakdown by state, as well as a deeper dive into annual transfer-out rates and six-year outcomes for community college entering cohorts over time visit

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, visit


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