Creating Equitable Opportunities & Outcomes for Transfer Students

Jul 03, 2018

Creating Equitable Opportunities & Outcomes for Transfer Students

A 2016 report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College shows that of the nearly 1.1 million students who enroll at 2-year institutions, about 80 percent intend to transfer and earn their bachelor's degrees. But only 14 percent reach their goal within six years.

Additionally, a report by The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center studying students during a 6-year period found that, “Among those students who do transfer, 45 percent transfer more than once. The greatest number of transfer students come from 2-year public colleges (almost 40 percent).”

Last year, to help resolve some of the challenges affecting transfer applicants, The Common App convened a Transfer Advisory Committee that included a diverse pool of Common App member institutions, organizations with expertise in the transfer space including The Aspen Institute, and community colleges. The result of that work was the launch of our new Common App for transfer application which will launch on August 1 to better serve the nearly 40 percent of students who will transfer at least once.

“The Common App is focused on building better pathways between community colleges and our membership of more than 800 colleges and universities worldwide. Through the new Common App for transfer, we can increase awareness of, and access to, the wonderfully wide range of educational opportunities and options that Common App members offer to the hundreds of thousands of transfer and adult students who have the skills to succeed but are stopping short of their true potential,” said Jenny Rickard, President & CEO of The Common Application.

We’ve found that transfer applicants are more likely to be first-generation students, often having to overcome the barriers of balancing their education with job and family responsibilities. For the 2017-18 college application year, 38 percent of transfer students using the Common App were the first in their families to apply to college. We recognized that in order to help transfer students realize their potential and pursue their bachelor’s degrees, The Common App needed to provide them with an application that’s relevant to their life story while also making the process of applying efficient by simplifying the way fee waivers, transcripts, and other documents are submitted.

But the key to transfer student success requires much more than that. Improving the application is only part of the solution for creating equitable opportunities and outcomes for the growing group of transfer and adult students needing their bachelor’s degrees for today’s job requirements. Research reveals that even those community college students with high grade point averages often aren't transferring to 4-year institutions.

Addressing this systemic issue requires moving beyond viewing transfer as a transaction between institutions and towards a collaborative effort to connect students with the best ways to accomplish their ambitions. For that reason, The Common App recently invited Dr. Karen Stout, President & CEO of Achieving the Dream, to speak as the closing keynote for our annual membership summit. During her remarks, Dr. Stout shared the many ways 2-year and 4-year institutions can partner to improve transfer student readiness. One of her important takeaways? Both sets of institutions must look closely at their processes, programs, and practices to create a seamless experience for all students.

Watch Dr. Stout’s interview at Member Summit where she discusses the essential relationships between community colleges and 4-year institutions and why too many talented students aren’t able to achieve their dream of earning a bachelor’s degree.