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Tracking Transfers: The Path to Achieving a Bachelor’s Degree

by NSC Blog | May 7, 2024 | Research Reports, Signature Reports

In the dynamic landscape of higher education, understanding student mobility and transfer patterns is crucial for fostering academic success and improving institutional support systems. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Tracking Transfer report offers valuable insights into the complex journey of students as they navigate from two-year to four-year institutions to pursue a bachelor’s degree, shedding light on the effectiveness of helping community college students to complete these degrees. In this blog post, we look at the latest set of national data from the fall 2016 cohort for first-time degree seekers who started at a two-year institution. 

Highlights from 2016 Entering Cohort

Among the report’s findings are:

  • Fewer than a third of students who began at a community college in the fall of 2016 transferred to a four-year institution within six years (31.2%). About half of those who did transfer completed a bachelor’s degree (49.1%; 15.7% of the entire cohort). These rates are consistent with the previous entering cohort, after several years of small increases.
  • About a third of the 2016 cohort earned an associate degree or certificate (32.1%). Nearly half of all students who transferred from a two-year to four-year institution did so after earning a sub-baccalaureate credential (45.2%).
  • Only one in 10 lower-income students who began at a community college ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree within six years (10.6%). This rate is less than half the rate of their higher-income peers who earned bachelor’s degrees (21.9%).
  • Three out of four transfer students moved to a public four-year institution, where their bachelor’s completion rate was highest compared to transfer students in other sectors (47.4% for public, 34.4% for nonprofit, and 12.2% for for-profit).

As part of the outcomes, the Clearinghouse research provides student demographics (e.g., gender, enrollment intensity, and income) and school-level descriptors (e.g., primarily academic versus occupational program mix, urbanicity, and student SES, or socioeconomic status). For the full report, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org/tracking-transfer/

By leveraging the insights provided by this report, policymakers, educators, and institutions can work collaboratively to create more equitable, efficient, and supportive transfer pathways for students, ultimately enhancing their opportunities for academic success and attainment.

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