Study Reveals Low Graduation Rates for Transferred Texas Community College Students

A new report released on Wednesday reveals that the majority of Texas community college students who transfer to a four-year university do not end up graduating. According to the study conducted by the Community College Research Center and Aspen Institute, only 45% of students who transfer to a four-year college in Texas earn a bachelor’s degree. The report also highlights that Black and adult students face even greater challenges, with only 33% and 37% respectively completing their bachelor’s degree.

While community colleges have been promoted as an affordable starting point for pursuing a bachelor’s degree, this report suggests that transfer students require more support in order to successfully complete their degrees. Tania LaViolet from the Aspen Institute expressed concern over the lack of ability for transfer students to achieve their goals, stating, “No wonder there is this distrust in higher education.”

The report further reveals that low-income and adult learners are less likely to transfer to a four-year university from a community college compared to their peers. In an effort to incentivize transfers, Texas legislators revised the financing for community colleges last year. Under the new funding model, community colleges receive additional funding when their students complete at least 15 semester credit hours before enrolling in a four-year university. In the 2024-25 school year, Texas community colleges earned nearly $327 million for facilitating transfers to four-year colleges.

However, the report cautions that transferring to a four-year university does not guarantee success for students. Many classes taken at community colleges often do not count towards their bachelor’s degree, a fact that can delay students’ progress and accumulate additional expenses. To address this issue, Texas implemented Senate Bill 25, which mandates universities to provide a recommended course sequence for every major. This allows students to select appropriate courses at community colleges and ensures transparency regarding transferable credits.

Despite this requirement, some degree plans provided by universities lack clarity, making it difficult for students to navigate their transfer pathways. Lauren Schudde, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin, highlighted the need for more explicit guidance in the transfer plans. Survey results from a 2023 Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board report indicate that public universities in Texas face challenges in meeting the needs of transfer students due to staffing and funding gaps.

The report also emphasizes the positive impact of dual enrollment programs on transfer outcomes. Researchers suggest that community colleges should encourage students to pursue an associate’s degree before transferring. Students who transfer with an associate’s degree have higher rates of bachelor’s degree completion within six years. However, acquiring an associate’s degree in Texas may pose the risk of accumulating additional community college credits that do not apply towards a four-year degree.

Overall, the report sheds light on the need for additional support and clearer guidance for transfer students in Texas community colleges. Improved policies and resources are crucial in ensuring equitable success for all students pursuing higher education.

The Texas Tribune partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage.

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