‘Reverse transfer’ could add 2 million degrees

As many as two million students could earn associate degrees through “reverse transfer,” with help from the National Student Clearinghouse. Using a Lumina grant, the Clearinghouse will design an automated system to identify students who’ve earned enough credits for a two-year degree. 

Seventy-eight percent of students who transfer from community college to a four-year institution leave before completing an associate degree, according to a Lumina study. Some drop out before completing a bachelor’s degree but earn enough credits for an associate degree.

Reverse transfer of credits back to the two-year school allow students to earn a credential. It also boosts the community college’s completion rate.

Texas, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee have developed programs to encourage reverse transfer of credits. Others are expected to follow suit.

 For its Reverse Transfer project, the Clearinghouse is creating a standardized, streamlined, and technologically enhanced process to assist four- and two-year institutions in transferring student credits more efficiently, securely, and successfully. There will be no fees for the service.

. . . four-year institutions will send academic data files to the Clearinghouse whenever a student who has provided consent reaches a specified number of credit hours, thus indicating his or her possible eligibility for an associate degree.

. . . Two-year institutions can download all records from all four-year institutions to which their students have transferred, for consideration of a reverse transfer degree.

The Clearinghouse is working with institutions in Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin on the first stages of the project.

Completion rates are higher for ‘dual’ students

Sixty-six percent of dual enrollment students who started college in 2007 completed a credential in six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse’s new report.  That compares to a 54 percent completion rate for those who didn’t take any college-level courses in high school. However, because dual enrollment may draw more motivated students, it’s not clear the program raises graduation rates.

Dual enrollment is expanding rapidly: 47 states and the District of Columbia let high school students take college courses,reports Education Commission of the States.  The number of states making students and their families primarily responsible for the costs of dual enrollment is dropping, from 22 in 2008 to 11 in 2013.

For degree seekers who started college in 2007, six-year completion rates ranged from 40 percent for those who started at community colleges, 63 percent who started at public universities and 73 percent for students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions.

While completion rates were low at four-year for-profit colleges, two-year for-profit colleges, which focus on job training, once again did better than community colleges. Sixty-two percent of two-year for-profit students completed a credential.

Figure B. Six-Year Outcomes by Starting Institution Type

Figure B. Six-Year Outcomes by Starting Institution Type

 Seventeen percent of community college starters completed a four-year degree, the study found. A majority had not first received an associate degree.

Overall, one in four completers had moved to another college or university.

Completion rates were higher for women and for traditional-age students.

CC enrollments down by 3.1%

College enrollments declined by 1.8 percent in fall 2012 — 3.1 percent at community colleges, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. For-profit colleges took the biggest hit with a drop of 7.2 percent.  Enrollment fell by 0.6 percent at four-year public colleges and universities, and rose by half a percentage point at four-year private nonprofit colleges.

College enrollments typically rise and fall with the unemployment rate, notes Inside Higher Ed.

So the fact that the enrollment boom that colleges enjoyed as the economy tanked in 2008 and 2009 has begun to reverse itself is in many ways to be expected.

But that suggests that the philanthropic and government efforts to get significant numbers of adults to go to college (or to return there) to pursue President Obama’s goal of driving up the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential may not be bearing much fruit.

Enrollment declines were bigger for full-time students, compared to part-timers, and for those aged 24 and older (-3.4 percent) compared to traditional-aged students (-0.7 percent).

Including transfers, completion numbers rise

New data that includes transfers shows more students are completing degrees, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Fifty-four percent of students complete a degree in six years — including 12 percent who transferred.  In all, 22 percent of students earn a degree from a different college than the one where they started, the report found. Three-quarters of full-time students complete college within six years.

The clearinghouse tracked 94 percent of college students. U.S. Education Department data is less complete, notes Inside Higher Ed.

In contrast to the newly released data, the federal government’s tabulations of degree production and graduation rates generally do not capture transfer or other student “swirl” factors. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) also misses half of all students with institution-level data based only on first-time, full-time students.

Community college completion rates look much better in the new analysis.

“The clearinghouse report both provides a significantly more accurate and much more positive picture of community college completion than the graduation rates from the U.S. Department of Education,” said David Baime, senior vice president of government relations and research for the American Association of Community Colleges.

Twenty-four percent of community college students complete at the same college within six years, but that rises to 36 percent when students who graduate elsewhere are included.  Another 20 percent of students are still enrolled in college.


Three fourths of community college students enrolled in fall 2010 were  enrolled — or graduated — in the next term, according to a National Student Clearinghouse snapshot report.  Students who transfer are counted as persisting, which makes sense but is not the common practice.

Private, nonprofit four-year colleges had the highest persistence rate:  91.4 percent of students persisted from one semester to the next.