The trouble with transfer reforms

Reforming articulation policies won’t solve the transfer problem, writes Josipa Roksa, a University of Virginia professor and co-author of Academically Adrift, on Education Optimist. There is a problem: Few community college students successfully transfer to a four-year college or university and complete a degree. Transfers rarely are able to use all their credits.

States with streamlined articulation policies don’t have higher transfer rates, according to at least three recent studies, Roksa writes. Transfer students in these states do not have higher bachelor’s degree completion rates, shorter time-to-degree, and/or fewer “wasted” credits.

Community college transfers who earn bachelor’s degrees at California State University campuses average 140 credits, 20 more than the minimum needed for a bachelor’s degree, Roksa writes. But CSU graduates who started in the four-year system graduate with 142.

The situation is only slightly better in Florida: Associate of Arts (AA) transfers completed 137 credits before graduation while native four-year students averaged approximately 133 credits. Similar patterns are observed in national data: students starting in four-year institutions (and even those who attend only one four-year institution) earn more (and often many more) than 120 credits.

We should streamline credit policies and make the transfer process more  transparent and consistent, Roksa writes. But it’s not realistic to expect that many more students will complete bachelor’s degrees as a result.