Poster Paper: Improving Bachelor's Degree Completion Rates for Community College Transfers: The Role of Engaging Student Activities

Friday, November 4, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sam Grubbs, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Community colleges provide affordable higher education options for students. More than one third of all community college students transfer to four-year post-secondary institutions; however, many of them do not complete bachelor’s degrees. The U.S. Department of Education emphasizes graduation rates as a standard in determining the quality of institutions in their “College Scorecard.” Improving community college transfer student retention could help universities bolster their graduation rates and help their standings. The purpose of this research was to investigate if there is a mediating effect from participation with on-campus engaging educational activities on the likelihood that a student will graduate with a bachelor’s degree. This research utilized data from multiple waves of the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 to investigate students who attended colleges and universities in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, some of whom transferred from a community college. I input the data into a structural equation model using maximum likelihood estimation. I controlled for students’ background, academic performance, and institutions attended in the model. The results indicate that community college transfers are less likely to participate with engaging activities. Additionally, participation with engaging student activities is positively correlated with graduating with a bachelor’s degree. The controls indicate that academic performance has a large effect on improving graduation rates. Overall, community college students are less likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, but participating with engaging student activities can help improve students’ chances of graduating. More transfer support services need to be available and promoted on campuses. Services should focus on academic support and providing ways for community college transfers to connect with the campus. By increasing community college transfer student engagement on campus, four-year institutions can improve their graduation rates and their standings on the government's “College Scorecard.”