ERIC Identifier: ED433871
Publication Date: 1999-10-00
Author: LeBard, Christine
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Reverse Transfers in the Community College. Eric Digest.
Two-year colleges traditionally serve as initial points of entry into college
for first-time students to earn credits, certificates, diplomas, and associate's
degrees. These colleges also act as feeder institutions for students interested
in transferring to four-year institutions to earn the baccalaureate. While
individuals who follow traditional transfer patterns still represent the
majority of student movement between two-year and four-year institutions, a
growing proportion of the transfer flow consists of students following more
complex enrollment patterns. Unlike traditional students, reverse transfer
students attend four-year institutions prior to enrolling in community colleges
(LeBard, 1999). This Digest focuses on reverse transfers, reasons for complex
transfer patterns, the effects of reverse transfers on community colleges, and
implications for community colleges.
Reverse transfers are students who enroll in
two-year institutions after earning credits from a four-year institution. Two
sub-groups are used to differentiate transfer patterns: undergraduate reverse
transfer students (URTSs) and post-baccalaureate reverse transfer students
(PRTSs). URTSs are students who transfer from a four-year to a two-year
institution before earning the baccalaureate, while PRTSs are students who have
earned at least the baccalaureate before attending to a two-year institution
(Townsend and Dever, 1999; Quinley & Quinley, 1999).
The term "reverse transfers" may be a misnomer because it assumes that
four-year institutions are the pinnacle of higher education. Designating
students who follow multiple transfer patterns with terms such as "reverse"
implies that these students are regressing. Such terminology belies the fact
that nearly 15 percent of all college students who follow multiple transfer
patterns successfully attain the baccalaureate before transferring (Bach et al.,
REASONS TO ATTEND COMMUNITY COLLEGES
URTSs are students who
have earned college credits but not a baccalaureate from a four-year institution
before enrolling in the community college. Although some URTSs transfer to the
community college as a result of academic complications experienced at a
four-year institution, many cite other reasons for their transfer patterns. Some
students experience financial difficulties, and believe the lower fees and the
campus proximity to their homes make the community college more affordable and
convenient than the four-year institution (Townsend and Dever, 1999; Quinley & Quinley, 1999; Catanzaro, 1999; Bach et al., 1999). Many URTSs believe
that community colleges offer a welcoming environment by providing smaller class
sizes and more student-teacher interaction. In addition, others are pleased with
the flexibility community colleges offer. Night classes allow students to hold
jobs, and the availability of day-care services on many campuses enables parents
to take courses (LeBard, 1999). Although URTSs return to the community college
for various reasons, most express satisfaction with their decision to transfer,
and believe the community college serves their needs in ways the four-year
institution does not (Townsend and Dever, 1999; Quinley & Quinley, 1999).
In addition, PRTSs, who have the baccalaureate, express satisfaction with
attending a community college, but for different reasons from those expressed by
URTSs. Many PRTSs use the community college to advance their positions in the
workforce. The community college can provide training for new employees and
retraining for senior employees who need to update skills in an ever-changing
society (Catanzaro, 1999; Quinley & Quinley, 1999). For example, programs in
computer technology enable individuals to be more marketable in the workplace,
while nursing degrees offer continuing professional development (Townsend and
Dever, 1999; Quinley & Quinley, 1999; Catanzaro, 1999). In addition to
workforce development, the community college serves PRTSs by providing courses
for personal development (Townsend and Dever, 1999; Quinley & Quinley, 1999;
Catanzaro, 1999). Advancing job skills, earning specialized degrees and
certificates, and taking courses for personal growth are all ways in which the
PRTSs utilize community colleges.
THE EFFECTS OF REVERSE TRANSFERS
The positive effects of
reverse transfers on community colleges can be found among institutions and
within specific classrooms. The growing numbers of reverse transfers help to
maintain the prosperity of the community college by increasing enrollments.
Further, reverse transfers have become an important source of revenue because
funding for the community college typically depends in part on student
enrollments (Hagedorn & Castro, 1999).
California's differential fee is a prime example of the impact of reverse
transfers on community college enrollments. In the early 1990s, Governor Pete
Wilson implemented a differential fee that raised community college fees from
$13 to $10 per unit for PRTSs (Hagedorn & Castro, 1999). This fee increase
negatively affected both students and institutions. Many PRTSs could no longer
afford to attend the community college, and consequently dropped out (Hagedorn
& Castro, 1999). This decline in enrollments demonstrates the need for
community colleges to provide reverse transfers with open-access education at an
affordable cost, or to face the risk of losing revenues from enrollment.
Reverse transfers expand the meaning of transfer, thereby influencing the
community college's position in American higher education. As many reverse
transfers already have attained degrees, or at least have attained junior status
elsewhere, these students signify that the community college has become not only
a point of entry into higher education, but also the pinnacle in their
educational careers. This new meaning for transfer creates an innovative role
for community colleges, with a responsibility that includes post-graduate and
specialized education (Hagedorn & Castro, 1999).
In terms of specific classroom activity, reverse transfers influence other
students and instructors. Reverse transfers can become role models for students
who are interested in transferring, and they often display maturity, dedication,
and seriousness that can positively affect other students. Moreover, many
instructors agree that reverse transfers tend to ask more questions and argue
about relevant issues to a greater extent than do other students. Such
interaction and discussion influence instructors to know the material, present
it well, and be prepared to answer informed questions (Townsend & Lambert,
1999). The interaction between reverse transfers and instructors may likewise
encourage other students to participate in classroom discussions. These positive
effects accentuate the benefits of recruiting reverse transfers.
Alternatively, there are some controversial outcomes from the enrollment of
reverse transfers. Specifically, "a second chance for PRTSs may come at the
expense of a second chance for a major group of students served by the
contemporary, public, two-year college: those people who did not do well in K-12
education and can only get jobs requiring a high school diploma or less
(Townsend and Lambert, 1999, p.75)." Several instructors suggest that
inexperienced students tend to participate at lower rates because reverse
transfers can dominate discussions. Instructors likewise may find it difficult
to coordinate classes given the variety of knowledge and academic experiences
among the different types of students (Townsend & Lambert, 1999).
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Research on the
impact of reverse transfers on the community college shows how these students
have expanded the role of the community college. While the community college
still can be considered the initial point of entry into higher education by
facilitating transfer to the four-year institution, it also serves as the site
for continuing education for URTSs and graduate education for PRTSs. This role
transformation influences researchers and administrators to develop programs and
courses that adequately serve both URTSs and PRTSs.
Some community colleges have successfully developed programs specifically for
reverse transfers. The New Start Program, at Kingsborough Community College,
serves URTSs by providing remedial courses and informing them about the
different aspects of the four-year institution. Thus, many students are provided
with a "new start" or a second chance for academic success. Chattanooga State
Technical Community College provides programs that recruit PRTSs and enable them
to obtain technical degrees in computer science, health fields, and engineering
technology (Catanzaro, 1999). The benefits of such programs for URTSs and PRTSs
suggest the need for increased program implementation and development
Having educational needs that may be different
from the traditional transfer student, reverse transfers are a growing
population on community colleges. However, these students offer many positive
benefits to the community colleges. Therefore, it would be to the advantage of
many community colleges to continue to develop better ways for understanding the
reverse transfers. With knowledgeable information on this special population,
specific programs and policies can be determined to assist the reverse transfer
student's education. This Digest is drawn from "Understanding the Impact of
Reverse Transfer Students on Community Colleges." New Directions for Community
Colleges, Number 106, Barbara K. Townsend, Ed., Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA,
Bach, B.K., Banks, M.A., Blanchard, D.K., Kinnick, M.K., Ricks, M.F., &
Stoering, J.M. Reverse Transfer Students in an Urban Postsecondary System in
Oregon. (pp. 47-56).
Catanzaro, J.L. Understanding and Recruiting the Reverse Transfer Student: A
Presidential Perspective. (pp. 27-34).
Hagedorn, L.S., & Castro, C.R. Paradoxes: California's Experience with
Reverse Transfer Students. (pp. 15-26).
LeBard, C.M. Sources and Information on the Scope and Impact of Reverse
Transfers. (pp. 85-92).
Quinley, J.W., & Quinley, M.P. The Urban Postbaccalaureate Reverse
Transfer Student: Giving New Meaning to the Term Second Chance. (pp. 35-45).
Townsend, B.K., & Dever, J.T. What Do We Know about Reverse Transfer
Students? (pp. 5-14).
Townsend, B.K., & Lambert, R. Y. Postbaccalaureate Reverse Transfers in
Maryland and Tennessee: Institutional Problems and Possibilities. (pp. 67-76).