Community College Transfer Students Show Low Completion Rates for Bachelor’s Degrees

A recent study found that a mere 16 percent of community college transfers secure a bachelor’s degree, disproportionately impacting Black, Latino, and low-income students.

Research from the Community College Research Center and the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program reveals that only about one-third of community college students transfer to a four-year institution, with less than half graduating within six years, resulting in an overall completion rate of 16 percent.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center collaboration unveiled even lower completion rates for Black, Latino, and low-income students at 9, 13, and 11 percent, respectively.

According to John Fink, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center, existing transfer systems face significant hurdles due to the lack of collaboration between community colleges and four-year universities.

Fink emphasized the inequitable nature of the transfer process and the need for clearer pathways and sufficient advising to support students.

Fink noted a shift in enrollment towards community colleges with vocational programs due to confusion and insufficient guidance in pursuing four-year degrees.

Fink highlighted how these challenges perpetuate societal inequities, affecting low-income and minority students who historically have had limited access to higher education.

Fink underscored the importance of additional resources and support to address disparities in completion rates among transfer students.

The disparity in bachelor’s degree outcomes among community college transfers varies by demographic, with low-income, Black, and Latino students lagging below the national average in completion rates.

While completion rates for these groups are concerning, there has been a slight increase from 14 percent in 2016, but still far from ideal, according to Fink.

Fink outlined the potential to enhance mobility, diversify student populations, and boost completion rates by fostering a sense of belonging and expanding practices like dual enrollment.

Dr. Marielena DeSanctis, president of the Community College of Denver, expressed concerns over completion disparities for low-income students as more jobs require bachelor’s degrees.

DeSanctis highlighted differences in transfer practices between Florida and Colorado, noting challenges and exclusionary policies faced by community college students.

Gaitan and DeSanctis emphasized the need to combat barriers for low-income students seeking to enter four-year institutions, advocating for inclusivity and support for underprivileged communities.

Efforts to provide resources, counseling programs, and essential living aids can help uplift students from impoverished backgrounds and promote educational equality.

The Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellowship offers opportunities for advancing media and journalism initiatives.

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