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Biden Administration Aims to Simplify School Transfers after Affirmative Action Setback
Following recent Supreme Court rulings on race-conscious admissions and student loan forgiveness, the Biden administration has announced its commitment to finding alternative methods to promote equity in higher education in the United States.
Federal officials are targeting a specific group of college students who often go unnoticed: those who transfer from one college to another.
In recently released data on Thursday, the Department of Education recognized several programs that have excelled in accommodating students who choose to transfer from one university to another, often from a two-year community college to a larger four-year institution.
Students who undertake such transfers have long faced various obstacles, including the risk of losing credits they have already earned. According to the Department of Education, on average, students lose nearly 40% of their credits, which they have already invested money in, during the transfer process.
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According to the data, transfers from Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu to the University of Hawaii at Manoa have one of the highest bachelor’s degree completion rates in the country. Other programs with high success rates include transfers from Northern Virginia Community College to George Mason University, and transfers from Tri-County Technical College, a community college in South Carolina, to Clemson University.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona believes that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action should serve as a wake-up call for colleges to significantly improve their support for transfer students.
“Our current higher education system puts community college students at a disadvantage when aspiring to earn four-year degrees – rejecting their credits, forcing them to retake courses, and ultimately prolonging and increasing the cost of their educational journeys,” he stated on Thursday.
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Community college graduates find bachelor’s degrees increasingly difficult to attain
Upon graduating from high school, Austyn Weeks decided that she was not ready to leave her hometown. She wanted to save money and felt that her grades were not up to her standards.
As a result, she enrolled at Moorpark College, a community college in California near her family. She remained there for three years, partly due to her reluctance to transfer elsewhere during the pandemic.
Now, at the age of 23, she is in her final year at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. According to the data published on Thursday, this university has the highest success rates for transfer students among all four-year colleges, with an eight-year bachelor’s degree completion rate of 89% for transfer students receiving federal financial aid.
However, even at Cal Poly, transfer students like Weeks still face systemic barriers. For Weeks, the experience of moving away from home for the first time was stressful. Even after being accepted, she questioned why she was chosen. The university admits only around a third of in-state applicants, a much lower acceptance rate compared to most colleges. For transfer students, the odds are even lower, and this is a common trend among many other universities.
“You’re the new kid on the block,” Weeks explained. “There’s a lot of imposter syndrome going on.”
Federal data reveals that the number of transfer students across the country experienced rapid growth in the late 2000s and has since plateaued over the past decade. Amid a decline in transfer enrollment nationwide last fall, a report published in March by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center suggested that bachelor’s degrees are becoming increasingly difficult for community college students to obtain.
Janet Marling, the executive director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Georgia, believes there is still much work to be done. She also mentioned that while it is important to recognize the most successful programs, applauding them can have its drawbacks.
“What I hope to see as a result of this is not only the recognition of these truly exceptional programs,” she stated, “but also finding a way to assist institutions in getting started.”