Transfer students succeed at elite colleges, but few get the chance to enroll

A new report finds that students who transfer to four-year institutions from community colleges have high completion rates and encourages selective institutions to better recognize and enroll this “promising admissions pool.” The report, published by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, shows that just 5 percent of students enrolled at the nation’s top 100 colleges and universities transferred in from community colleges, even though nearly half of the nation’s college students start their education at a community college. Transfer students admitted to selective institutions tend to come from other four-year institutions.

In overlooking community college transfer students, the report says, elite institutions are missing an opportunity to diversify their student body by enrolling more socioeconomically varied, first-generation, and non-traditional-age students.

Noting that community college transfer students at highly selective institutions have graduation rates equal to or exceeding those of students who start their postsecondary education at four-year institutions, report author Jennifer Glynn said in a statement that the new findings “dispel widely held misperceptions about these students’ academic capabilities and perseverance.”

“For many students, the decision to begin their higher education journey in community college is simply about financial need,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Basili encourages selective institutions to “seek out these high-achievers to support institutional goals including campus diversity and degree completion.”

The report does not delve into how many community college students applied to prestigious schools or analyze data based on race or socioeconomic status. It does, however, offer several suggestions for recruiting, admitting, and retaining community college transfers, such as by investing in a staff member on campus who is dedicated to recruiting and supporting transfer students, writes Education Dive.

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