Transfer & Mobility: A National View of Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2008 Cohort

By Elizabeth Blume

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released its second report on postsecondary transfer and mobility. The report finds that 2.4 million out of 3.6 million students starting in the fall of 2008 transitioned from one institution to another over six years. Over a third (37.2%) of full-time students transferred to a different institution at least once and 45% changed institutions more than once. The report presents a complex picture of student movement through multiple institutions as they pursue their academic goals. Findings include:

  • The 2008 cohort includes more adult learners, more community college and for-profit enrollments and fewer full-time enrollments.
  • One out of five students moving from two-year public institutions and 25% of students moving from four-year public institutions transferred across state lines.
  • More than half (51.3%) of students transferring from a four-year public institution and over 40% transferring from a private four-year institution enrolled in community colleges.
  • Part-time students had the lowest transfer rate of 11.9%. They are the most likely to stop-out of college altogether.
  • Students enrolled both full- and part-time (mixed enrollment) had the highest transfer and mobility rates at 53.7%. They are more likely to complete a degree than students who consistently enroll part-time.

While mobility can result in a loss of credits for transferring students, the prevalence of transfer for today’s students suggests that students are using it as a strategy to reach their academic goals. Given the importance of transfer rates to college completion, the report recommends that institutions and states begin tracking outcomes of transfer students, and that both starting and destination institutions work together to make these transitions hurdle-free.