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Report: “Indispensable” Role of Transfer for Community Colleges

Recently, the nation’s education agenda has placed considerable focus on increasing college completion rates. While this worthy goal is critical to the country’s economic success, a new report implores the education community not to lose sight of other valuable functions of community colleges, namely transfer, as schools work toward graduating all students.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) released this month an issue brief on the “indispensable” role of transfer for community colleges and students. More than one-quarter of those who earn a bachelor’s degree began their college experience at a community college and transferred to a four-year institution along the way. Nearly half of bachelor’s degree recipients take at least one course at a community college.

Research shows that transfer from a community college to a four-year institution not only works, but also saves money. The AACC brief states that students who start at a community college and transfer to a four-year university are just as successful as those who begin at a four-year institution. For the nine institutions studied in this case, an estimated $22 billion were saved by students who first attended community college first and then transferred.

Part of what makes transfer work, the AACC brief shows, is that the receiving institution prioritizes the success of transfer students. Eighty-two percent of transfer students earn a bachelor’s degree on time when their receiving institution accepted all of the student’s community college credits. When colleges accept some community college credits, forty-two percent of transfer students earned a bachelor’s degree on time.

The AACC brief also takes into account questions to consider as post-completion measures and program effectiveness are evaluated, such as “Should an institution that provides just the last few credits before earning a degree be considered the institution of record for the student’s ultimate ‘success’?”

Click here to access the full report.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager 

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