One-third of all students switch institutions at least once before earning a degree, says a report released on Tuesday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
The “traditional” path of entering and graduating from the same institution is decreasingly followed, the report says. Students transfer across state lines and institution types, and even “reverse transfer” from four-year to two-year colleges.
The report—”Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions,” published in partnership with Indiana University’s Project on Academic Success—examines students’ increasingly complex transfer patterns. It looks at nearly 2.8 million full- and part-time students of all ages, at all institutional types, over a five-year period beginning in 2006.
Transfer rates are similar for full- and part-time students, 32.6 and 33.9 percent, respectively, the study found. More than a quarter of all transfers cross state lines, and students’ preferred destination is public two-year institutions (except when those are the origin). The most common time for transfer, the report says, is in a student’s second year.
Most data analysis focuses on institutions, the report says, viewing students “as simply entering, progressing linearly, and completing a degree or not.” In this presentation, it says, “students are the unit of analysis, and institutions are viewed as stepping stones along a diverse set of educational paths.”
College administrators and policymakers need to get a better handle on the issue of student mobility to ensure that they are putting in place effective policies, say the report’s authors. “This view could lead to new approaches and metrics that better inform students and institutions about the range of successful enrollment patterns,” they write.
And not just students who earn associate degrees should be taken into account, said Donald Hossler, executive director of the research center. “There is a lot of attention given to post-degree transfers, but not about the mobility of students before they earn a degree.” he said. “We are presenting information in a way that is seldom done.” (Read more.)