More than 33% of college students transfer

Of those that do, nearly half switch institutions multiple times

Nearly 40% of students who started college for the first time in fall 2008 transferred at least once within six years, according to a new study from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Researchers found that 37.2% of the 3.6 million students beginning that term switched colleges—and almost half made more than one move. Students were counted as transfers if they changed institutions before earning a bachelor's degree within six years of enrollment.

The data that redefine success in community college

About a quarter of students who began at a community college transferred to a four-year institution, yet fewer students are doing so after earning an associate's degree or certificate. A similar report from 2012 found one in five students transferred after earning an associate's degree or certificate but the updated figures show now just one in eight wait until earning a credential to transfer.

The findings may support "reverse transfer initiatives" that enable students to transfer back to two-year schools and earn a degree, write the researchers, because about 25% of students who moved from four-year to two-year institutions were "summer swirlers," or students who return to their original school the following fall. 

Among other findings:

  • Students who enroll both part- and full-time were the most likely to transfer, at a rate of 53.7%;
  • Part-time only students had a lower transfer rate of just 11.9%;
  • Almost 20% of transfers from two-year schools took place across state lines; and
  • Almost 25% of transfers from four-year schools took place across state lines (Adams, "College Bound," EdWeek, 7/8; National Student Clearing House release, 7/7).

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