OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Transferring from Community Colleges to Baccalaureate Institutions

Research and Evaluation | Noteworthy Practices | Additional Links

The transfer function is a central goal of community colleges. At least one-quarter of students who enroll at community college have as a goal transferring to a baccalaureate degree granting institution. Yet, many students do not achieve this goal.

Even though the reasons that students do or do not transfer are complex, there appears to be two key factors that facilitate the transfer process. One key factor is the type of articulation policies established by states or institutions. Articulation policies refer to the regulations that guide the transfer process from one college to the other. States with comprehensive articulation policies, such as Florida and Illinois, support a smoother and more coherent transfer process. These states established a common core of general education courses that cover the first two-years of a postsecondary education. Therefore, students can take courses at community colleges and know that these courses are accepted anywhere within the state's public system of higher education. Students, in states with institution-by-institution articulation policies, face multiple challenges in the transfer process including unclear general education course requirements that could lead to having to repeat courses, lost time, and increased costs.

The other key factor is the types of academic and social support services offered to students in preparation for transfer. Community colleges with greater transfer rates provide a variety of support services through visible and accessible transfer centers. These same colleges also provide advance courses to prepare students academically.

Research and Evaluation

  • Access to the Baccalaureate Initiative (2000)download files PDF.
    Survey research to systematically identify barriers to baccalaureate level education and practices that help overcome those barriers. The survey is part of the larger research strategy supporting the initiative.

  • Community College Students: Goals, Academic Preparation, and Outcomes (2003) download files PDF.
    Report provides information on the varying goals, preparation, and outcomes of community college students using three different data sources. Although educational objectives vary among students enrolled in community colleges, most students say they desire a formal credential.

  • State Policy and Community College-Baccalaureate Transfer(2002).
    Paper that examines the role of state policy in influencing community college–baccalaureate transfer rates. The importance of two-year to four-year transfer performance is discussed and national research about transfer patterns is presented.

  • Transfer and Articulation Policies (2001).
    Matrix, by state, of transfer and articulation legislation, cooperative agreements, data reporting, incentives and rewards, articulation guides, and common core and common course numbering.

Noteworthy Practices

  • Community College Transfer Center, University of California, Berkeley.
    Program helps community college students transfer to the University of California at Berkeley. Center staff provides both individual services to students as well as in-service training for community college counselors.

  • Illinois iTransfer.
    Website for students, parents, and educators that outlines Illinois' credit transfer policies. This tool supports the transfer of students from one Illinois college/university to another.

  • Massachusetts Transfer Program.
    State policy requiring that Massachusetts Community Colleges structure their programs to ensure that credits transfers to four-year institutions. Students who participate in the state's Joint Admissions Program are guaranteed acceptance at a 4-year institution if they complete an associate's degree.

  • North Carolina Comprehensive Articulation Agreement between the North Carolina Community College System and the University of North Carolina System. A statewide agreement governing the transfer of credits between community colleges and public universities in North Carolina.

  • Puente Project (CA), a comprehensive counseling and academic intervention program that works at the community college level to increase the number of educationally underserved students who transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

Additional Links

  • Education Commission of the States.
    Provides news, research, analyses, and technical assistance for state education policymakers.

  • Lumina Foundation.
    The foundation places special emphasis on encouraging student success at community colleges, through research and program development in three broad themes: access to postsecondary, success in postsecondary, and the challenges faced by adult learners.

  • Pathways to College Network.
    An alliance of foundations, organizations, and other federal- and state-level partners. The network conducts research and disseminates information focused on improving college preparation, access, and success for under-served populations.

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Last Modified: 06/09/2008