Community colleges serve as an entry point to our nation’s postsecondary education for a growing number of students. They offer an affordable pathway to a bachelor’s degree through transfer. While the majority of community college students originally intend to take this path, sadly many do not. They often experience significant barriers to transfer, with the most critical being the loss of credits. As the higher education landscape changes and four-year institutions face dynamic enrollment challenges, transfer students have become increasingly important. As efforts continue to be made by state policymakers to improve the process and degree outcomes for transfer students, community colleges and four-year universities need to improve collaboration in order to raise degree attainment levels.
Interest in degree completion by all Americans is at an all-time high as our nation looks to meet the demands of our workforce and to ensure our economic stability long-term. Adult degree completion, both for adults with some college credit and those who have never attended college, is an integral part of realizing these goals. Although once considered unconventional, adult students have been a growing population for colleges, especially with online programs and courses reducing barriers for them. At a time when government funding to colleges and universities has decreased dramatically, colleges and universities are provided with an opportunity to increase their enrollment and revenue by serving the needs of these adults through outreach and advising resources.
As a nation, we’re facing an increasing demand for highly skilled workers. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020 65% of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education. To meet this growing demand there has been a push to improve America’s college completion rates. Recognizing that there are many different ways in which postsecondary learning can take place, we have highlighted five strategies that can create stronger incentives for students to earn their degrees, regardless of when and how their learning is acquired.
College students transfer from one college to another for a variety of reasons. With every one there is a transfer tax – a financial consequence - that is not only incurred by students but higher education institutions, states and the nation. It is the added cost resulting from students taking courses that don’t impact degree completion outcomes and lost course credits. We have to examine the impact of the transfer tax on all stakeholders to reveal the true implications that college transfer has on higher education.
Nationally representative data shows that 78% of students who transfer from community college to four-year institutions do so prior to graduation. Yet research indicates having an associate degree appears to incentivize transfer students toward completing a bachelor’s degree.
College students are more mobile now than ever before – and we’re not talking about their cell phone usage. No, today’s students are moving between and among our postsecondary institutions, with one third transferring at least once before earning a degree.
The national push for degree completion is driven primarily by workforce demand – the need for college-educated job applicants is rising faster than college students are graduating.
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AcademyOne is a consulting and software development firm working in the higher education sphere. We deliver industry-leading solutions to states and institutions who wish to improve student retention and degree completion rates, especially among the growing population of nontraditional learners.