The case for reverse transfers

About 16% of four-year students transfer to a two-year institution

"Reverse transfers" from four-year to two-year institutions don't significantly affect graduates' early employment outcomes or lifetime earning potential, according to a new report.

Researchers from Columbia University's Community College Research Center's (CCRC) Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment found that "struggling" students, who earned less than a 3.0 GPA their first semester, had similar wages and bachelor's degree attainment rates regardless of whether they moved to a two-year school or not.

More than 33% of college students transfer

About 16% of students who start at a four-year college end up transferring to a two-year institution within six years. In 2006, approximately 237,000 students reverse transferred, compared with the 260,000 who completed a traditional two-year to four-year college transfer. 

Students who are struggling in their first year don't need to stay, pay three more years of full tuition, and continue to struggle, says Vivian Liu, report author and a CCRC senior research assistant.

"It's a very positive result, especially for students going into more structured programs," she says. 

Students may be struggling for various reasons, be it academic, financial, or just being too far from family, says Janet Marling, executive director of the National Institute for the study of Transfer Students at the University of North Georgia.

"This paper is showing our two-year institutions are providing great support for our students; it's just a matter of insuring those credits are portable, they transfer to the next destination and they have applicability to a major that can help them reach their goals," Marling says (Smith, Inside Higher Ed, 6/6; Ting Liu, CAPSEE report, June 2016).

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