One third of all college students transfer schools on their journey to a degree, yet far too few institutions and systems have adapted to this reality, leading them to lose credits, money and time. Learners from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately impacted by these challenges. Most enroll at a community college, intending to transfer to a four-year institution to earn their bachelor’s degrees. The dismal completion rate — 11% after six years — shows how much work needs to be done in this area.
Ascendium and our funding partners are supporting several ongoing initiatives to look at ways to improve transfer outcomes, including the following.
- The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, working with HCM Strategists and Sova Solutions, is leading Tackling Transfer. This initiative works with schools in Texas, Virginia and Minnesota to scale policies and practices to improve bachelor’s degree completion for community college transfer students. Tackling Transfer is issuing a number of resources in the next several months, including a Transfer Value Calculator and case study. The calculator is intended to demonstrate to college and system administrators the return on investment for prioritizing transfer and transfer students. Ascendium is funding this initiative with co-funders The Kresge Foundation, Joyce Foundation and ECMC Foundation.
- Ascendium is also funding the research associated with Degrees When Due, a national, multi-year effort by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) to promote degree reclamation and increase the awarding of associate degrees for the some college, no degree population. Degree reclamation includes such strategies as encouraging and supporting “near completers” to return and finish their degrees, as well as reverse credit transfer, the practice of awarding associate degrees to students after they’ve transferred to a four-year institution. Jason Taylor and colleagues recently published a study of Texas transfer patterns, showing that granting reverse credit transfers was associated with more students completing bachelor’s degrees. Set to publish more resources later this year, Degrees When Due is co-funded by Lumina Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.
- The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has released the next COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility and Progress Report, the third of a nine-part series intended to provide institutions and researchers with near real-time data on how the COVID-19 health crisis is impacting transfer students. This first look at spring 2021 enrollment trends shows transfers are down 7.9% across all institution types, a decline 3.8 times larger than last year. The community college sector saw a 15.2% decline, a worrisome trend for learners from low-income backgrounds.
Thanks to our grant partners for producing valuable work that will help the field support transfer student success in the months and years to come. Ascendium’s interest in transfer is part of a larger focus on streamlining key learner transitions, which also supports diverse pathways, along with easing transitions from postsecondary education to the workforce.