After receiving a Powered by Publics competitive seed funding award last December, a group of North Carolina universities participating in the initiative are unearthing new insights on the experience of students transferring from community colleges.
Easing transfer pathways remains one of the most vexing challenges in higher education. Credits taken as a community college student that do not align with 4-year degree requirements appear to be “lost” in the transfer process. This can delay students’ path to graduation or, worse, knock them off the path to graduation altogether. And since transfer students are disproportionately likely to come from minoritized or Pell Grant-eligible backgrounds, better understanding the challenges facing these students is critical to tackling equity gaps.
That’s why North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, and UNC Wilmington are teaming up with The Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research at NC State to better understand the experience for North Carolina Community College students who transfer to these four-year universities.
This unique multi-institution but single-state study is tracking common data points such as two-, three-, and four-year graduation rates for transfer students entering with an Associate of Arts or Science degree from a North Carolina Community College to one of the partner institutions – a transfer process governed by a strong statewide articulation agreement. Powered by Publics funding enabled the research team to track the percent of credit that transfer students bring from their prior institution that aligns with their degree. Each institution is tracking these figures across two majors – business as well as a major of each institution’s choosing. The full results of the study will be shared broadly in the fall of this year to promulgate promising practices and help inform UNC System policy on articulation of credit and recommendations for improving degree pathways for transfer students.
North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, and UNC Wilmington have all reported data. For students who transferred in 2017 and entered with the intention of majoring in business, 33 percent of students at NC A&T, 92.6 percent of students at NC State, 73 percent of students at UNC Charlotte, 63 percent of students at UNC Greensboro and 76 percent of students at UNC Wilmington had graduated by May 2021.
Currently, the research team is exploring the community college courses that students received credit for against each university’s baccalaureate degree plan for the business major. From here, they will be able to better understand the relationship between the extent of the baccalaureate degree plan courses completed and important outcomes, like timely graduation, while considering student characteristics like race/ethnicity, gender, and Pell eligibility.