ERIC Identifier: ED456869
Publication Date: 2001-07-00
Author: Kim, Karen A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Trends and Issues in Transfer. ERIC Digest.
Although community colleges in the United States have complex academic and
vocational goals, the transfer function is of central importance to maintaining
access to higher education. Community colleges provide the lower-division
coursework for the baccalaureate degree for those students who, immediately
after high school, may be ineligible for admission to a four-year college or
university. In addition, more and more students who are eligible to attend
four-year institutions are choosing to attend community colleges with proven
transfer rates because of their low cost, small class sizes, and
student-centered faculty. To better understand the transfer process, research
that examines student and academic issues and institutional factors at both
community colleges and senior institutions proves useful. This Digest highlights
current issues concerning the transfer function presented in "Transfer Students:
Trends and Issues" (New Directions for Community Colleges, Summer 2001) with a
specific focus on trends, research, and institutional programs.
APPROACHES TO STUDYING TRANSFER
Studies about transfer
students are both qualitative and quantitative, although the majority of studies
use quantitative methods. Research most often consists of institutional
research, statewide reports, university-based research, and joint projects by
community colleges and universities. The number of issues addressed in research
on transfer students is extensive, ranging from descriptive questions to more
in-depth analysis of issues such as student satisfaction, academic performance,
and patterns in the transfer process (Kozeracki).
Transfer studies that are designed with the intent of improving student
outcomes and the effectiveness of community colleges can serve as examples for
others. The design considerations that can help a study's effectiveness include:
(1) a focus on things that can be changed, (2) questions specific enough to
allow action to take place, and (3) consultation with those being evaluated
(Kozeracki). Building a link between research and practice requires
collaboration and may help to improve academic outcomes of transfer students. A
study conducted by Santa Monica College (SMC) in California investigated the
success of its students who transferred to six local four-year institutions in
Los Angeles. Both questionnaires and focus groups were used to obtain
information from the students about their experiences at SMC and at the
four-year institution, and their adjustment process. The findings led SMC to
create a series of recommendations designed to address student concerns about
counseling services, financial aid information, writing preparation, and
computer literacy (Johnson-Benson, Geltner, Steinberg).
Existing research on transfer can inform future studies, including research
on transfer behavior (i.e., the movement of students through the educational
pipeline), transfer adjustment (i.e., transfer student adjustment to the
environment at the senior institution), and post-transfer behavior (i.e.,
behavior patterns of students after transferring to a senior institution).
TRANSFER PROCESS RESEARCH RESULTS
The 1997 National Center
for Education Statistics (NCES) report on transfer behavior shows that of the 25
percent of community college students who reported they were working toward a
B.A. degree during the academic year 1989-90, 39 percent transferred to a
four-year institution by 1994. This same report also shows that of the students
identified as prospective transfer students, 50 percent of full-timers
transferred, compared with 26 percent of part-timers. In addition, while 65
percent transferred without an associate's degree, 43 percent of associate's
degree completers received a bachelor's degree by 1994 compared to 17 percent
without that credential (as cited in Laanan).
Research shows that the adjustment process of transfer students is likely to
be complex--including academic, social, and psychological aspect--due to the
environmental differences between two- and four-year institutions (Laanan).
Comparisons between academic performance of transfer students and native
students show that transfer students have lower GPAs, higher attrition rates and
are more likely to end up on academic probation (Laanan). Institutional size and
selectivity also have an impact on an individual's adjustment to college. Racial
and ethnic minorities may experience additional stressors, derived from internal
sources, demographics, and campus social climate (Laanan).
Post-transfer behavior trends show that students often experience transfer
shock, a temporary dip in grades, in the first or second semester after
transferring. A meta-analysis by Diaz (1992) of sixty-two studies shows 67
percent reporting that students recover from transfer shock, usually within the
first year of transfer (as cited in Laanan).
An examination of issues that enhance (or deter) successful transfer of
minority students identifies ways to improve the transfer process. The
suggestions most often identified by the participating students include (1)
establishment of clear communication of transfer policies, (2) development of
support programs at senior institutions, (3) assessment of institutional
performance, and (4) inclusion of culturally competent staff that communicates
well in cross-cultural situations (Lee).
A look at institutional programs,
both at community colleges and senior institutions, provides insight into ways
that institutions are addressing issues concerning transfer adjustment, transfer
behavior, and post-transfer behavior. Model support programs (i.e., existing
programs that can serve as starting points for future expansion of research) may
also assist in the development of effective programs (Eggleston and Laanan).
Transfer centers, honors programs, and proactive institutional leadership are
some of the structural supports that can help to promote transfer and
While some support programs are institutionally sponsored and developed for a
specific campus, many include partnerships between two- and four-year
institutions. Some collaborations also include support from other foundations or
organizations, such as the Ford Foundation's grant to the National Center for
Educational Alliances to develop transfer centers in urban community colleges
(Zamani, p. 18). Several innovative transfer center programs have pursued
avenues that will increase the number of students transferring to senior
institutions, including the Summer Scholars Transfer Institute at University of
California, Irvine and several southern California community colleges, the
Illinois Board of Higher Education grant program, and the Glendale Community
College program in California (Zamani). Community college and university
partnerships have promoted smooth transitions through research, articulation
agreements and campus programming (Zamani).
Many community colleges participate in partnership programs with four-year
institutions to help promote transfer at their institutions. For example, the
Transfer Alliance Program (TAP) promotes transfer between California community
colleges and the University of California, Los Angeles. The TAP partnership
between San Diego City College and UCLA encourages transfer through
participation in an honors program. The honors approach has emerged as a
strategy that enhances transferability and employability of students (Kane).
Some of the main aspects of the San Diego City College Honors Program include a
core curriculum that functions as interconnected courses with thematic linkages,
rigorous courses that use interdisciplinary approaches and/or innovative
teaching-learning modalities, development of faculty-student relationships, and
incorporation of extracurricular experiences into the program (Kane).
Community college campuses can better respond to
issues concerning transfer students if the administrative leadership, including
the president, is informed of research, raises expectations for transfer, and
proactively develops policies and programs that support transfer (Helm and
Cohen). The approach should differ depending on the transfer rate. For example,
a college with a high transfer rate may have an honors program that attracts the
best students in local high schools while a college with a low transfer rate may
focus on efforts to change public perception of the institution, including
prospective high school students (Helm and Cohen).
While the transfer function is a central mission for community colleges, the
issues surrounding transfer are complex. Recent statistical trends show that
improvements are still needed in the number of community college students
transferring and persisting to graduation at a four-year university as well as
in their adjustment to the environment at these four-year institutions.
An understanding of issues concerning the community college transfer student
population will contribute to development and evaluation of support programs
that promote transfer and persistence (Eggleston and Laanan). In order for this
research to be effective it should include characteristics of transfer students,
needs of transfer students at senior institutions, and the level of support
provided by senior institutions (Eggleston and Laanan). By understanding the
student and academic issues and the institutional factors associated with
transfer, community colleges and universities can develop support programs that
will facilitate successful transfer and persistence to the baccalaureate degree
This Digest is drawn from "Transfer Students:
Trends and Issues." New Directions for Community Colleges, Number 114, edited by
Frankie Santos Laanan. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Summer 2001.
Eggleston, L. E., Laanan, F. S. Making the Transition to the Senior
Institution. (pp. 87-98).
Helm, P.K., Cohen, A.M. Leadership Perspectives on Preparing Transfer
Students. (pp. 99-104)
Johnson-Benson, B., Geltner, P. B., and Steinberg, S. K. Transfer Readiness:
A Case Study of Former Santa Monica College Students. (pp. 77-86)
Kane, H. R. Honors Programs: A Case Study of Transfer Preparation. (pp.
Kozeracki, C. A. Studying Transfer Students: Designs and Methodological
Challenges. (pp. 77-86)
Laanan, F. S. Editor's Notes. (pp. 1-4)
Laanan, F. S. Transfer Student Adjustment. (pp. 5-14)
Lee, W. Y. Toward a More Perfect Union: Reflecting on Trends and Issues for
Enhancing the Academic Performance of Minority Transfer Students. (pp. 39-44)
Zamani, E. M. Institutional Responses to Barriers to the Transfer Process.