Community College Credits May Not Transfer to a 4-Year School

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A new study suggests that 1 in 7 transfer students lose nearly all of their course credits when they switch from a community college to a four-year university.

The research paper – “The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree” – was co-authored by two academics from the City University of New York and funded by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.

The unfortunate result of requiring those students to essentially start over by accepting only a scant 10 percent of college credits they earned is that they’re much less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree. According to Inside Higher Ed:

The research also dumps cold water on several other explanations for why many community college students fail to eventually complete bachelor’s degrees, such as assumptions about lowered expectations, a vocational focus or inadequate academic rigor during their time at two-year colleges.

In fact, students who were able to transfer nearly all of their credits were 2.5 times more likely to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree than students who transferred less than half of their credits, the study said.

Inside Higher Ed also said it pointed out that “community college transfer students are just as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree as equivalent students who started at a four-year college.”

The transfer rates break down as follows, Inside Higher Ed said:

  • 58 percent of community college students were able to transfer 90 percent or more of their credits to a four-year school.
  • 28 percent of students lost between 10 and 89 percent of their community college credits.
  • 14 percent of students lost more than 90 percent of the credit coursework.

Columnist Liz Weston of Reuters said some states are attempting to address this issue by “creating guaranteed pathways from their community colleges to their public four-year schools.” Massachusetts and Virginia already offer guaranteed admission and credit transfers for students who pass courses and maintain minimum grade-point averages.

Todd Weaver, a consultant from Strategies for College, told Reuters it’s a good start, but more needs to be done.

Students have to know such paths exist and take the right courses to follow them, Weaver said, while those attending school in states that don’t have such programs need to find out in advance which credits will transfer to their target schools.

Have you experienced the college credit transfer nightmare? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • marketfog

    A potential student at a community college should research whether the courses offered are the same as those offered at the local state university and whether the courses are transferable. Some states require that they be transferable. Here in Florida, Valencia CC advertises that its course credits are transferable to the Univ. of Central Florida. Don’t overlook the local branch of the state university. Its courses are fully transferable. My daughter went to a private business school. When she transferred to UConn she had to show her courses were equivalent to those offered at the university. Only one course wasn’t accepted. However, her coursework better prepared her to be a Sophomore than the UConn students who started as Freshman. Ads for private trade schools often have a disclaimer about transfer-ability of course credit.

  • Jason

    Not all classes will transfer from one 4-year college to another 4-year college either. I transferred from a private engineering school to a public university after 2.5 years and the majority of my classes transferred. However, If I would have stayed another semester before transferring none of the additional classes I was scheduled to take would have transferred. I got lucky. ALWAYS check to see if credits will transfer before taking classes. Also many schools have core classes that every student must take.

  • Jack Mabry

    Four year colleges are such snobs when it comes to community colleges. In reality, community colleges do a better job of teaching than the education you get in the first two years of a 4 year college. The good professors never teach in the first two years, they leave it up to their teaching assistants.