The Coordinating Board, during its recent quarterly meeting, received a staff report on student transfers from community colleges to Texas universities.
The study followed students with 60 semester hours from two-year schools, compared with "native" students at four-year institutions, also with 60 hours. (Obviously this leaves a huge number out—namely all those who transfer before accumulating this number. But presumably it serves as an apples-to-apples metric.)
In a word—not surprisingly—transfers students don't succeed as quickly. Community college students, who all too often have a plethora of personal and financial baggage to carry, take longer at all levels and, once they transfer, continue to do so.
From the Executive Summary:
Overall, the survey and performance data indicate that Texas public universities understand the importance of transfer students in the state higher education system and make efforts to recruit, retain, and graduate them. However, the data also show that Texas public universities could be doing a better job at helping these students make the transition from community college to university.
This report provides a summary of a study regarding the success trajectories of junior-level students (students who have earned 60 semester credit hours) native to a university, and students who have transferred to a university from a community college with successful completion of 60 semester credit hours (SCH) prior to transfer. These figures do not reflect overall completion rates for all transfer students; all universities receive many transfer students prior to the 60-earned-SCH mark. However, these figures are useful for comparing those students who have made substantial progress toward completing a bachelor’s degree, and they are more reliable because they compare both native and transfer students who have persisted through approximately the first half of their undergraduate coursework.
This cohort of students became juniors in the fall of 2006. The students were tracked through the spring of 2010.
…Statewide, 83 percent of university native students who achieved junior status by earning a total of 60 SCH prior to the fall 2006 semester completed a bachelor’s degree within the following four years. The completion rate for community college transfer students was 67 percent during the same four-year period (through 2010), showing a completion rate for community college transfer students that lagged 16 percent behind their university native student peers. For a similar cohort of native and transfer students who became juniors one year earlier, in 2005, and who completed a bachelor’s degree during or before 2009, the difference was 18 percent. Thus, within the 2006 cohort of students, transfer students gained slightly in degree completion when compared with transfer students from the previous year.
The interesting part is not the overall comparisons, but the variety across universities. For instance:
While the statewide comparison for 2006 shows a 16 percent difference in degree completion between university native and community college transfer students, there is a substantial variation in the achievement gap between native and transfer students if one looks at data for each individual university. For example, transfer and native juniors in the 2006 cohort at UT- Pan American graduated at almost the same rate: 77 percent for native students and 76 percent for transfer students, a negligible difference of one percent. At UH-Downtown, native students graduated at a rate of 61 percent, while transfer students graduated only two percentage points down, at 59 percent. At Texas Southern University, only 29 percent of transfer students completed their degrees within the four years following their achievement of junior status, while 60 percent of native students graduated during the same period.
Obviously there is a lot going on here. The report states that transfer students and the state do not end up paying more, since two-year college costs are lower.
Here's the full report. Definitely worth examination. You may wish to scroll down to the universities in your area to see how they compare with others. Perhaps some "best practices" can be replicated.