Each year, millions of students enter community colleges with the goal of transferring to a four-year institution and earning a baccalaureate degree. To improve upward transfer rates, students, practitioners, and policymakers must have a clear understanding of the relationship between upward transfer and key academic, demographic, social, high school, and college characteristics.

The American Council on Education’s (ACE) Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS), with support from Hobsons, released a report that examines the impact of factors such as dual enrollment, academic performance and testing, financial aid, and campus engagement on successful upward transfer rates for community college students. 

The new report, Improving the Odds: An Empirical Look at the Factors That Influence Upward Transfer, analyzes data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, a nationally representative longitudinal study of students who began 10th grade in 2002 and were tracked over a 10-year period.

In an analysis of ELS data by ACE researchers, it was found that students who participated in dual enrollment programs—on average—were two-and-a-half times more likely to transfer to a four-year institution than students who did not. The analysis also revealed that students who completed AP/IB courses enjoyed higher upward transfer rates.

Other key findings include:

  • College aspirations and planning in high school are associated with higher rates of upward transfer. Students who aspired to earn graduate and professional degrees were nearly twice as likely to transfer compared to students who aspired only to complete their high school diploma.
  • Students who waited longer than three months after high school to enroll in community college saw their odds of transferring reduced by 43 percent.
  • Participating in student activities boosts the chances of upward transfer. Frequent participation in extracurricular activities while enrolled at their community college more than doubled the odds that a student would transfer.

The findings of the report were discussed in a webinar on May 18, 2017 with the ACE researchers, Dr. Ellen Wagner, Hobsons’ Vice President of Research, and Dr. David Schuler, Superintendent of Township High School District 214. Download the webinar here.


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