Colleges Transfers’ Growing Popularity
Student mobility is an important trend to examine because it plays a significant role in students’ degree completion, an indicator of student success. It can facilitate baccalaureate degree attainment for community college students who transfer to four-year institutions.
Students may transfer from four-year institutions to two-year institutions to complete additional coursework at lower cost. Students who transfer from a two-year to a four-year institution may also transfer credits back to the starting two-year institution to receive a two-year degree before finishing the requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Many students also make a lateral transfer to find a better institutional fit or a program that more closely meets their interests.
In its ninth Signature Report, Transfer & Mobility: A National View of Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2008 Cohort, the National Student Clearinghouse®> Research Center™ looked at student transfer and mobility. Its first transfer and mobility report was released in 2012.
- Of the 6 million students who entered college for the first time in fall 2008, over one third (37.2 percent) transferred to a different institution at least once within six years.
- Of these, almost half changed their institution more than once (45 percent).
- Counting multiple moves, the students made 4 million transitions from one institution to another from 2008 to 2014.
“The picture of postsecondary student mobility becomes more complex the closer we look.”
Doug Shapiro Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center
Focusing on the cohort of first-time students who began their postsecondary studies at U.S. colleges and universities in fall 2008, the Signature 9 report examined student transfer and mobility patterns over six years, through summer 2014.
- Among all students who transferred, the most prevalent time for their first transfer was during the second year (36.6 percent) of college, with another quarter of students (24.4 percent) transferring in their third year.
- Women had a slightly higher transfer rate than men (39.0 and 36.8 percent, respectively).
- Transfer rates for students in two-year public, four-year public, and four-year private nonprofit institutions ranged from 3 percent to 39.5 percent, while the rates for students who started in four-year private for-profit institutions were much lower (22.9 percent).
- Of those who transferred, almost half (45 percent) changed their institution more than once. The transfer rate of the cohort, combined with the frequency of transfers, depict a complex picture of movement through multiple institutions while students pursue their academic goals.
“The picture of postsecondary student mobility becomes more complex the closer we look,” stated Dr. Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, Research, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “These data will help institutions and policymakers to develop better tools for serving mobile students and keeping them on the path to degrees.”
Timing of First Transfer or Mobility 2008-2014, All Transfer Students, Fall 2008 Cohort
Most student transfers occur in the second year of college.