While 80% of the 5.3 million students enrolled in public two-year institutions aim to earn a bachelor’s degree, only 29% transfer within six years and even fewer, 17%, complete a bachelor’s, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. This discrepancy between aspirations and outcomes is even wider for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation students.
Behind these low completion rates is a broken transfer pipeline where students—and their course credits—fall through the cracks.
Many states lack clear and equitable statewide articulation agreements that offer guidance to public institutions on determining course equivalency for credit transfers between institutions. Without clear articulation agreements, admissions staff and administrators use a significant degree of discretion, creating a patchwork system where students can lose 37% of their credits in public-to-public transfers and a staggering 94% in public-to-private transfers.
Credit losses hinder students from completing their degree, contribute to greater student debt and saddle federal financial aid programs with greater inefficiency.
In response, the College Success team launched the Catalyzing Transfer Initiative (CTI), which provided $4.5 million to the American Association of Community Colleges, Education Commission of the States, Institute for Higher Education Policy, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education to support the development and wider adoption of clear and equitable transfer agreements, ensuring less credit loss for students.
CTI specifically aims to increase the number of Black and Latinx community college students transferring to and graduating from four-year programs by targeting states with either high numbers of minority-serving institutions or rapidly growing populations of students of color.
Collectively, these grantees have the ability to influence multiple aspects of transfer reform—including accountability, funding, data, and governance structures—that can directly benefit students, especially students of color, and repair the talent pipeline that will fuel our national economic recovery.