student equity

How Student Equity Has Been Affected by Declining Transfers to 2-Year Colleges

The pandemic continues to disrupt the education system, as evidenced by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report that provides details on transfer students. While there was a significant increase in the number of students transferring from two-year colleges to four-year campuses, the report shows a plunge in reverse transfers. In other words, transfers out are more common than transfers in. This combination is an additional shock to an already challenged education system for higher learning.

Meaning of Rising Transfers

The clearinghouse report called “Covid-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress” reflects decisions made by 9.2 million students as of September 24, which amounts to 54 percent of the postsecondary institutions. While the news is good for four-year universities, it puts added pressure on community colleges, which are suffering from enrollment declines. In freshman enrollment alone, there’s been a 23 percent drop at community colleges as students have increasingly decided to bypass junior colleges.

The report reveals that transfer enrollment has fallen by 4.7 percent since the fall of 2019, marking a 4.5 percent decline among undergraduates. Transfers now account for 13.4 percent of college enrollment. Reverse transfers from four-year to two-year colleges have fallen by 18.4 percent this year,  compared to a 5 percent drop last year. Reverse transfers now account for 11 percent of all transfers, while regular transfers are up by 2.6 percent.

Student Equity Issues

The concept of student equity refers to fairness in the education system. Funding of community colleges depends much on enrollment. When enrollment goes down, so does the accompanying state funding. This situation can be detrimental for low-income students since less funding means fewer resources for programs aimed at helping such students.

Total transfers as a percentage of overall enrollment, however, have declined from 13.8 to 13.4 percent. In terms of black students, the number of transfers has fallen by 0.2 percent, while transfers of Asian students have risen by 18.7 percent. Before the pandemic, black and Hispanic students were not as likely to transfer from two-year to four-year colleges as white or Asian students, as per the report.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center executive Mikyung Ryu, over 80 percent of new community college students set out to earn bachelor’s degrees. However, only about 13 percent are successful in achieving that goal. Lack of proper guidance from counselors is one of the reasons why students drop out. The pandemic has caused students to rethink the entire process, as many who seek degrees now want to earn them in a faster time frame at the lowest possible cost.

Relaxation of requirements has significantly triggered the increase in transfers to four-year colleges. Losses in enrollment from the pandemic have caused universities to reassess entrance requirements. While some have modified GPA requirements, others now accept more credits for a transfer. For-profit colleges are also adding to the frustration of two-year colleges, along with students who are postponing college due to financial or health considerations.

Other Reasons for Lower Enrollment

College enrollments have dropped during the pandemic, but the underlying cause of such drop in enrollments extends beyond the fear of contacting the coronavirus. Financial difficulties aggravated by the pandemic driven shutdown has compelled many to drop out of their course. Others are looking at college as a lower priority compared with finding employment and paying bills. Those who can’t keep pace with the coursework at higher learning institutions are switching over to easier courses at the community college.

These are some reasons why colleges are facing growing enrollment problems as students look for alternatives. Contact the professionals at McKnight Associates Inc. for more information about how the pandemic is affecting the education system.