Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Increasing College Completion and Equity through Strengthened Transfer Partnerships

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 8:50 AM
Hibiscus (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Xiaotao Ran1, John Fink2, Di Xu1, Afet Dundar3 and Davis Jenkins1, (1)Columbia University, (2)Community College Research Center, (3)National Student Clearing House Research Center
According to the latest reports from NCES, 81% of entering community college students indicate that they intend to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher. Yet, data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicate that only 16% of first time students who start in a community college earn a bachelor’s within 6 years. To motivate and inform efforts by higher education leaders and policy makers to improve community college to university transfer outcomes, the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, and the National Student Clearinghouse are jointly conducting a multi-stage research project with the goal of producing better metrics with which to measure transfer outcomes for students and institutions.

This paper results from the first stage of this project, in which we used National Student Clearinghouse student unit record data to identify community college / university partnerships that have had exceptional success in the rates at which their students transfer and earn bachelor’s degrees in any field (and in STEM fields specifically) within six years of their first community college enrollment. To identify successful transfer partnerships, we used a two-step regression model using the Clearinghouse data merged with information on institutional characteristics from IPEDS and socioeconomic information from the Census tract associated with each student’s home address. In the first-stage regression, we identified community colleges with  a better-than-expected bachelor completion rate among transfer students. Focusing on these community colleges, we further identified strong transfer partnerships between two-year and four-year institutions , in which the four-year institution is not only the major transfer destination for the two-year college, but also has a higher-than-expected BA completion rates after controlling for available institutional and individual characteristics.

In this paper, we describe the methodology used to identify two- and four-year partnerships that produce better than expected rates of bachelor’s degree attainment for community college transfer students. To our knowledge, no previous research has measured the effectiveness of transfer partnerships in this way. The paper will also provide descriptive statistics on the performance of two- and four-year transfer partnerships nationally. Preliminary analysis indicates that better than expected outcomes are achieved in partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions that are more selective and that serve a student body with a higher socio-economic profile.  On average, partnerships with public four-year institutions produce better outcomes than do those with private institutions, particularly for-profit institutions.  There is a great deal of variation in transfer partnership performance across states. Based on descriptive statistics at least, partnerships between public two- and four-year institutions in states that have statewide transfer agreements do better on average than do those in states without such agreements. Detailed policy implications from these descriptive and partnership ranking results will be discussed during the session.