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Fall 2020 First Look Research Reveals Transfer Patterns and Enrollment Challenges

by NSC Blog | Oct 27, 2020 | Research Reports, Research Services, Snapshot Reports |

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released new research that shows increased transfers from community colleges to four-year institutions in the first fall semester of the pandemic, while fewer students transferred from four-year institutions to two-year colleges, or laterally among two-year or four-year institutions. These findings are based on preliminary data reported as of September 24, 2020, by 54 percent of Title IV degree-granting institutions that participate in the Clearinghouse.

“The pandemic seems to be affecting students mainly by keeping them out of college, not by driving them to change colleges,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Fewer students are enrolling as freshmen and fewer are returning from stop-outs, and despite fears that many would be forced to transfer to lower-cost or closer-to-home options, student mobility overall appears constrained.”

The COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress Report reveals that continuing students are the driver of increases in upward transfer. This is good news for four-year colleges looking to close enrollment gaps but adds to enrollment concerns in the community college sector. Even though the increase in upward transfer is promising for community college students seeking a bachelor’s degree, it was uneven across different student subgroups, with male students, Black students, and adult learners falling further behind other demographics.

The Research Center’s COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress Report series, with support from Ascendium Education Group and the ECMC Foundation, will identify changes in student transfer pathways that are attributable to the pandemic by using historical data as the pre-pandemic baseline and the Clearinghouse’s current enrollment data. By making transfer data and insights accessible online for free, the Research Center will enable schools, institutions, organizations, and policymakers to better adapt and serve students, particularly those from the most vulnerable populations, during the pandemic and beyond. The COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress Report will be updated on December 21.

Furthermore, at the start of the fall 2020 semester, undergraduate enrollment is now running 4% below last year’s level, and the upward trend for graduate enrollment has slipped to 2.7%, according to the latest update in the Research Center’s Stay Informed with the Latest Enrollment Information. As a result, overall postsecondary enrollment is down 3% compared to the same time last year. The Stay Informed report will be updated on November 12.

“With more data, the downward trends identified in September’s First Look report appear steeper, while also emerging for more states and student groups,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Most strikingly, freshman students are by far the biggest decline of any group from last year, with a decrease of 16.1% nationally and a 22.7% drop at community colleges in particular. First-time students account for 69% of the total drop in undergraduate enrollment.”

During the academic year, watch for the Research Center’s regular updates to these reports!

“The pandemic seems to be affecting students mainly by keeping them out of college, not by driving them to change colleges.”

Doug Shapiro
Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

 

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