Missing out on transfer guidance


Community colleges have steadily improved efforts to help their students transition to four-year institutions, but research released today indicates many two-year students don’t know about services provided at their college to help them transfer or don’t use them.

Almost half (47%) of student participants in a 2022 Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) survey said they didn’t know about transfer credit assistance at their college, and among those who did know, only one-quarter (24%), reported having used the service. Another CCCSE survey, which is administered to mostly returning students, shows that 64% of respondents said they never used transfer planning services.

CCCSE says in a new report that not tapping those services earlier can make it challenging for students who want to transfer to navigate the process, which is often layered with jargon, confusing information and complex directions on a swath of issues, especially on pre-requisites at the new institution and what course credits they will accept from a college.

Less than one-third (30%) of respondents who said they planned to transfer indicated a staff member or instructor had talked to them about the transfer application process. The data show students who reported having clear plans (where they want to transfer and what they wanted to study) were almost twice as likely to say a staff member or instructor talked to them (36%) than those who didn’t know where they wanted to go to or what they planned to study (19%).

However, almost two-thirds of students who said they knew where they wanted to transfer and their path of study hadn’t talked to a staff member or instructor about the transfer process. CCCSE notes that is of concern, as some of those students may not fully understand the process and might not reach their goals as a result.

“Do they know the requirements for transfer to their institution of choice? Do they know if their transfer institution and major plans are aligned? Do they know exactly what courses they need to take for the credits to count toward that major?” the report asks.

Where students seek guidance

The survey shows that students were just as likely to ask family and friends (29%) about transferring as they are to ask instructors (29%) and staff at the college (28%). The smallest group of students (14%) said they were most likely to rely on the guidance of someone who works at the potential transfer institution, it adds.

CCCSE says that early advising is key for students, beginning with the first few weeks of their enrollment at a community college. It not only allows students to develop an understanding of the transfer process and potential pitfalls, but it allows students to discuss with an advisor about future goals and possible academic pathways, which can help improve transfer success.

Related article: Time to transform transfer

The survey shows that more than one-third (35%) of community college students indicated that they know where they want to transfer and what they want to study. However, more than half reported that they intend to transfer but didn’t have a clear vision. On a positive note, among students who intended to transfer, a large majority plan to earn an award at their two-year college before transferring. Only 6% didn’t plan to earn a credential (degree, certificate or both) before transferring, and 16% were unsure.

CCCSE observes that having a plan — a program, major or pathway of study — helps focus students who plan to transfer. Of those who said they know where they want to transfer and what they want to study, 93% had decided on a pathway of study at their community college, the report says. Even among those who didn’t know yet where they wanted to transfer but did know what they wanted to study, 91% had decided on a pathway of study at the community college.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.
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