The Transfer Function of Community Colleges
Saturday, November 14, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hibiscus (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Di Xu, Columbia University
Panel Chairs: Clive R. Belfield, Queens College, City University of New York
Discussants: David B. Monaghan, City University of New York and Clive R. Belfield, Queens College, City University of New York
The past two decades have seen a steady increase in tuition and fees for higher education. Partly driven by the cost difference between four-year and two-year colleges, a growing number of students who aspire to a bachelor’s degree are choosing to begin their postsecondary education at two-year colleges, using them as a stepping stone to four-year institutions. This pathway to a bachelor’s degree is particularly important for the disproportionately large number of racial/ethnic minority and low-income students who enroll at community colleges, many of whom are first in their families to attend college. As the College Board’s Commission on Transfer Policy and Practice explicitly states: “The increasing stratification of higher education makes transfer the most important—and perhaps the only—viable avenue [to postsecondary success] for students from underserved groups.” The increasingly important role of community colleges as a pathway to bachelor’s degree attainment raises fundamental questions about the effectiveness of the transfer mechanism; the impacts of initial enrollment at a community college on students’ academic and labor market outcomes; and, most importantly, potential ways to motivate and inform efforts by higher education leaders and policy makers to improve community-college-to-university transfer outcomes.
In this session, we present new evidence from four studies on the transfer function of community colleges, the impacts on student degree completion and labor market outcomes, and the effectiveness of various projects designed to improve transfer outcomes. In this set of studies, we use National Student Clearinghouse data and longitudinal college administrative data from three states to provide a comprehensive overview of the transfer function of community colleges. The first study examines the impacts of initial enrollment at a community college on students’ academic and labor market outcomes in Virginia. The next study use National Student Clearinghouse data to identify exemplary partnerships between two-year and four-year institutions nationwide. The third study evaluates a set of online tools (“guided pathways”) developed by Arizona State University to aid in the transfer process for students starting at one of the Maricopa Community Colleges. The last study uses a difference-in-difference approach to examine the effects of statewide structured transfer programs on rates of degree attainment and transfer from two-year to four-year colleges in California.
Together, these studies contribute to the college transfer literature by examining not only the outcomes but also the processes of college transfer in multiple geographic regions. Results from these studies will provide important policy implications for addressing the national college completion and equity agenda by understanding and addressing the inefficiencies in the current transfer system.