Going Backward? The Academic and Employment Consequences of Four to Two-Year Transfer

Conference: Association for Institutional Research (AIR) Annual Forum
Date: June 1, 2016, 3:00–3:45 PM

Facilitating student transfer from two-year to four-year institutions has been a focus of research and policy in recent years. Much less attention has been given to the phenomenon of four-year to two-year (4–2) college transfer. About 16 percent of students who begin in a four-year college transfer to a two-year college within six years.

Using national data and public higher education data from one small state and using distance to the closest two-year college as an instrumental variable, this presentation shared findings on the effects of 4–2 transfer on “struggling” students, those who earned less than a 3.0 grade point average in the first term.

Results indicate that these 4–2 transfer students are more likely than similar non-transfer students to attain two-year college credentials (including associate degrees and long- and short-term certificates); the gain is concentrated in women who tend to enroll in health-related programs. What is more, struggling students who transfer to two-year colleges are no less likely than struggling non-transfer students to earn a bachelor’s degree. Early employment outcomes also indicate that the labor market does not penalize 4–2 transfer behavior. Falsification tests show strong first-stage results and no correlation between distance and socioeconomic indicators, which supports the use of distance as an instrumental variable for 4–2 transfer status. The findings indicate that 4–2 transfer can improve college completion for students struggling in four-year institutions.


Vivian Liu, CCRC and CAPSEE

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