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The Challenge of Transferring College Credits

by | Dec 5, 2017 | Research Reports, Research Services, Signature Reports, Uncategorized |

GAO Report Affirms Research Center Data: Improvement Needed in College Transfer Experience

No one said transferring for college students was easy, but no one said it had to be so hard, either. A recent report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) detailed the way students lose credits when they transfer while calculating the substantial cost to the student and the federal government.

Data from this report shows that students lost an estimated 43 percent of college credits when they transferred, or an estimated 13 credits, on average. The average credits lost during transfer is equivalent to about four courses, which is almost one semester of full-time enrollment.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Tracking Transfer report also sheds light on the transfer experience, which allowed institutions to learn more about the academic trajectory of community college students when they transfer. Data from this report included the following key findings:

Tough Transition for Community College Transfers to Four-Year Institutions

Overall, very few students who start at a two-year institution eventually complete a four-year degree. The numbers were astounding with just less than 14 percent of community college students going on to completing a bachelor’s degree in six years.

Low-Income Student Struggle

Students attending a community college serving lower socioeconomic communities were less likely to transfer to a four-year institution than students attending a community college serving higher socioeconomic communities: 26.3 percent and 34.6 percent, respectively. Even after transferring, students from high socioeconomic schools were 9 percent more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than students who transferred from low socioeconomic schools (44.7 percent and 35.8 percent, respectively).

Occupational Schools Students Do Better than Academic Schools

Students from primarily occupational community colleges had higher transfer-with-award rates (35.8 percent vs 32.0 percent) and transfer-out bachelor’s completion rates than students from primarily academic two-year institutions. Students coming from occupational community college programs fare better in completing their studies at four-year institutions than students coming from academic community college programs.

What Does This Mean?

When the “Tracking Transfer” report was released, Davis Jenkins, Senior Research Scholar Community College Research Center, Teachers College Columbia University said, “Students say that the transfer process is a mess, but until now we haven’t had the numbers to back them up. This report gives colleges and universities the metrics they need to improve outcomes for students. As is clear from the report, most have a lot of work to do.”

Students lost an estimated 43 percent of college credits when they transferred, or an estimated 13 credits, on average. The average credits lost during transfer is equivalent to about four courses, which is almost one semester of full-time enrollment.

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