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Home » About the Clearinghouse » Media Center » Transfer Enrollment Decline of Nearly 10% from Last Spring Marks Steepest Drop Since the Pandemic Started

White, Black, Latinx, and Asian transfer students all fared better at public four-year colleges but worsened at community colleges this spring

HERNDON, VA – (June 3, 2021) – The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released today research that shows COVID-19’s impact on colleges and universities nationwide is solidifying. With 94% of Clearinghouse institutions reporting, transfer enrollment at community colleges continues to be hit hardest by the pandemic, regardless of student group, gender, race and ethnicity, or age, while public four-year institutions remain the least affected among all sectors.

This semester marks the steepest year-over-year decline in overall transfer enrollment since the pandemic began, with a 10% drop over last spring in the number of students who changed institutions from their most recent prior enrollment. As a comparison, non-transfer students declined by only 6.5%,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Making sure that students remain able to access all available opportunities to reach their goals, including through transfer, is critical to supporting their success amid the disruptions of the pandemic.”

At community colleges, transfer enrollment declined 16.3% this spring, a two-fold increase over last year’s decline of 8%. The decline among non-transfer students was also steep at 13%. White, Black, Latinx, and Asian transfer enrollment all worsened at community colleges, while they each fared better at public four-year colleges compared to their pre-pandemic transfer trends.

At public four-year colleges, White and Black transfer students declined 6.2% and 2.8%, respectively, though their declines were smaller than in the previous year. Latinx and Asian transfer students grew nearly 2%, benefitting from increased upward transfer opportunities. Latinx transfer students saw the largest percentage point swing of any racial/ethnic category in the public four-year sector, jumping from a decrease of 2.4% last spring to a 1.8% increase this spring.

Other COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress: Final Look Spring 2021 Report Highlights Include:

  • Upward transfer from two-year to four-year institutions was the only mobility pathway to increase, up 1.5% this spring after a 5.5% decline last spring. Steep declines were observed for reverse transfer (-18%) and lateral transfer (-12.6%).
  • Traditional college-age students (18- to 24-year-olds) were far less mobile than adult students, having dropped 13.6% in transfer enrollment compared to a 2.5% drop for those 30 and older.
  • At public four-year institutions, transfer enrollment fell much less than before the pandemic (-1.5% vs. -6%), and by less than half the rate of decline among non-transfers (-1.5% vs. -3.3%).
  • Male transfer students continued to drop during the pandemic, regardless of age group. Overall transfer enrollments among men fell at double the rate of women (-13.7% and -6.5%, respectively) after dropping at similar rates last spring (-7.2% and -5.9%, respectively).
  • In the previous spring, upward transfer enrollment for women continuing from the fall was declining slightly more than for men (-9.8% vs. -8.2%). This spring, however, the two diverged sharply (+7.3% for women vs. -5.1% for men). Upward transfers overall (including returning students) also increased for traditional college-age students (+7.6%), students aged 30 and older (+3.7%), women (+4.3%), Latinx (+3.2%), and Asian students (+5.8%) while declining for men (-2.8%), Black (-1.2%), and White (-.1%) students.

Background Information

The COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress: Final Look Spring 2021 Report, the fourth in the series, is an end-of-term report for spring 2021. The report focuses on year-over-year changes within a fixed panel of institutions that represent 94% of the Clearinghouse universe of institutions and 11.3 million undergraduate students (including 737,000 transfer students) reported as of April 22. In summer 2021, the Research Center will provide a more complete picture of transfer and mobility trends based on the full academic year’s data.

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 pre-pandemic 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 analyzes the data from 3,600 postsecondary institutions, which represent 97% of the nation’s postsecondary enrollments in Title IV degree-granting institutions in the U.S., as of 2018. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit