Hobsons partnered with the American Council on Education’s Center for Policy Research & Strategy (CPRS) to dig deeper into how we can smooth a path to successful transfer to a four-year institution for community college students. In the report, Improving the Odds: An Empirical Look at the Factors That Influence Upward Transfer, researchers analyzed data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 to examine the impact of factors such as dual enrollment, academic performance and testing, financial aid, and campus engagement on successful upward transfer rates for students who enroll in community college directly after high school. 

Hobsons recently hosted a webinar with the paper’s authors, Dr. Jonathan Turk and Dr. Wei-Lin Chen from the American Council of Education, along with Dr. Ellen Wagner, Hobsons' Vice President of Research, and Dr. David Schuler, Superintendent of Township High School District 214 (IL). The webinar featured an engaging discussion on the study findings and strategies for how high school educators, higher education leadership, and state and federal policymakers can support student success for this critical population of learners.

While the webinar focused on key findings and recommendations from the research report, several other important conversations emerged during the course of the event. Here are five additional takeaways from the webinar discussion:

Access is important, but completion is critical.

One of the most important issues in education today is around access to postsecondary education and what educators and policymakers can do to increase the number of students into the education pipeline. But the conversation needs to refocus from access to access plus completion, so that students don’t just enter postsecondary institutions but also persist and complete their education goals, and how educators and policymakers can support their success.

Student preparedness for college begins in K-12.

Schools and districts play a critical role in ensuring students are academically ready for postsecondary life. But the research study showed that in addition to academic performance, college aspirations while in high school, access to financial aid, and high school behavior all affect the chances of successful upward transfer. Students who have access to rigorous high school curricula and strong college and career preparation and counseling (including financial aid education) while in high school are more likely to be successful in college.

In addition, K-12 and higher ed must reconsider what it means to be college ready. Through the Redefining Ready! campaign, Dr. David Schuler and AASA, The American Superintendents Association have introduced new research-based metrics to more appropriately assess that students are college ready, career ready and life ready, and to help schools and districts be more intentional and thoughtful in the role they play in ensuring students are successful in their postsecondary institution.

Defining and supporting transfer pathways is more important than ever.

Community colleges play a vital role in providing students with access to adult and continuing education programs, technical and career-based certificates and associate degrees in both general education and specialized fields, and/or preparation for transfer to four-year institutions. However, too few students successfully navigate the complex process of transferring from a two-year to a four-year institution. Strong academic advising programs that serve the unique needs of community college students, as well as clear and comprehensive articulation agreements can help reduce the barriers to transfer.

K-12 and higher ed must work together to increase access to dual enrollment and AP/IB courses.

The research study found that students who participated dual-enrollment programs in high school were two and a half times more likely to transfer to a four-year institution than students who did not. Schools and districts need to remove the barriers that are in place for students in accessing dual enrollment and AP/IB courses because the importance of these courses goes beyond high school – they can be critical to a student’s long-term postsecondary success.

Access requires resources.

State and federal investment in education is paramount. Access for all students to rigorous high school curricula, like AP/IB courses, requires resources and we must pressure policymakers to ensure that our K-12 system has the resources it needs to prepare our students for postsecondary success.  

For a look at the complete study findings and robust conversation on the topic of upward transfer, download the full webinar

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