Top institutions overlooking high-achieving community college students, report says

The nation’s elite colleges and universities have a “talent blind spot”: the more than 50,000 high-achieving, lower-income community college students who, each year, decide not to transfer to four-year institutions, according to a study published by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program.

Some 15,000 of those high-achieving students have a 3.7 GPA or higher, which the authors note “would make them competitive at the nation’s most selective schools.” Although 80 percent of students entering community college say they intend to transfer and attain a bachelor’s degree eventually, just 14 percent do so within six years of starting community college.

Authors call on American Talent Initiative institutions to support transfer efforts

The report authors focus especially on institutions who are existing or potential members of the American Talent Initiative, which seeks to expand access and opportunity for highly-talented lower-income students. Within this group of 290 colleges and universities with graduation rates of 70 percent or higher, the average fall enrollment for transfer students is 18 percent; that rate grows to 32 percent when you factor in all other four-year institutions.

Tania LaViolet, co-author of the study, told EdSurge, “this is making the case that there is a rich talent pool of community college students who are not seeking opportunity at these schools.” The report notes that, if every ATI school enrolled 20 additional low- and moderate-income community college transfer students as juniors each year, the initiative would be one-quarter of the way to reaching its goal of having ATI schools graduate an additional 50,000 lower-income students by 2025.

Report outlines ‘principles for transfer success’

To achieve transfer success—including increased transfer rates, campus engagement, and strong and equitable outcomes—two- and four-year institutions must work within their own schools and collaborate to address common barriers faced by transfer students, the report says. “Four-year universities were built for traditional students who enter into the first year,” LaViolet says, adding that “it signals to transfer students when you have policies and practices tailored to their needs that you want them.” In addition to making the case for increasing transfers, the report authors provide a practical guide for doing so.

About the American Talent Initiative

Building on its longstanding commitment to making education accessible to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, Georgetown University in 2017 became a founding member of the ATI. Learn more about the initiative’s goals and activities on the ATI website.

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