Lost credits make it difficult for community college transfers to earn a bachelor’s degree, concludes a new City University of New York study. The more credits earned but rejected by the four-year institution, the less likely a transfer will graduate.
Students who start at a community college with hopes of earning a bachelor’s are less likely to reach their goal than similar students who start at a four-year college or university. The study estimates a 17 percent graduation gap for full-time, traditional-age students. The usual suspects — inadequate academic preparation and community colleges’ vocational emphasis — aren’t the primary factors, the authors write. Community college students don’t “cool out” on their desire for a bachelor’s degree. Nor is it true that community college students receive lower aid levels after transfer. For the most part, it’s the lost credits, the CUNY study concludes.
Fifty-four percent of community college transfers would earn a bachelor’s degree, if not for lost academic credits, researchers estimate. Currently, only 45 percent complete a four-year degree in four years.
“Loss of credits is a tax on transfer students,” CUNY researcher David Monaghan said.
Eighty-one percent of community college students say they plan to transfer and earn a four-year degree. But only 42 percent of BA-intending students actually transfer.
The average full-time student takes 3.8 years to earn a two-year degree and 4.7 years to get a four-year degree, estimates Complete College America. The average student earns 80 credits for an associate degree that requires 60 and 136.5 for a 120-degree bachelor’s degree.
Retaking courses costs time and money, reports Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed.
“About 14 percent of transfer students in the study essentially began anew after transferring,” according to the paper. Fewer than 10 percent of their community college credits were accepted. A majority — 58 percent — transferred 90 percent or more of their credits. The remaining 28 percent lost between 10 and 89 percent of their credits.
To avoid transfer hassles, community colleges in more than 20 states now offer four-year degrees, typically in vocational fields. California legislators are considering the option for the state’s 112 community colleges.
A new report on college completion from the National Student Clearinghouse estimates that 36.5 percent of students who start at community college will complete an associate degree in six years, while 15 percent will complete a four-year degree. Completion rates are much higher for exclusively full-time students and traditional-age students.