Overachieving Transfer Students Under Enrolled at Elite Universities?


January 15, 2019 4:23 PM
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
Despite evidence that transfer students from community colleges are highly likely to succeed academically and bring diversity to more competitive colleges, a new study reveals that elite colleges are less likely to admit them.

Despite evidence that transfer students from community colleges are highly likely to succeed academically and bring diversity to more competitive colleges, a new study reveals that elite colleges are less likely to admit them.

A recent report released by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation finds that "most of those admitted as transfers to competitive colleges are coming from other four-year institutions, not community colleges," despite evidence that "students who enroll do succeed and are more likely than those admitted as freshmen to be from underrepresented minority groups, from low-income backgrounds or to be veterans of the U.S. military." Although roughly 30 to 34 percent of college students start their college education at a community college, only about 5 percent of those who enroll at elite colleges started at community colleges. This "skewed representation" indicates that the most competitive colleges are "missing out on many talented students," according to the report.

What, then, accounts for the disparity? One perspective is that there is a commitment to a "traditional" college experience in which high school student graduates from high school and directly goes to college. One study claims that "students who begin post-secondary education at a community college are less likely to earn a bachelor's degree than otherwise similar undergraduates who begin at a 4-year school;" which could be an issue at elite colleges that boast strong retention rates. Other contributing factors may include skepticism about the academic rigor at community colleges and issues with credit transfers.

Public institutions generally admit transfer students better than private institutions but the "most competitive institutions are not doing as well as they did a decade ago," according to the report. Despite the reportedly low admittance rate, the report finds that graduation rates of community-college transfers meet or exceed those of students who enroll at selective institutions as first-time freshman. In your opinion, why do you think elite colleges reportedly admit fewer transfers from community colleges?

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