New Report Identifies Key Predictors of Upward Transfer for Community College Students
Webinar on May 18 to explore study’s findings

WASHINGTON, DC – April 18, 2017 – 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.

“As the workforce demand for baccalaureate degrees continues to increase, understanding how to improve the pipeline between two- and four-year colleges will continue to be of paramount importance,” said Jonathan Turk, Senior Policy Research Analyst at CPRS. “Our research, with the support of Hobsons, helps to illuminate the policies and practices that can ensure students have the best opportunities to achieve their educational goals.”

Community colleges play a critical role in increasing access to higher education. For many students, they provide an affordable, convenient means of earning an associate degree or certification. For others, they provide a pathway toward earning a baccalaureate degree at a four-year institution. Yet, only 14 percent of the students who start out in a community college transfer to a four-year university and earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to the Community College Research Center at Columbia University (NY).

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.

In addition, strong academic performance in high school predicted the likelihood of transfer from two- to four-year institutions. Standardized 10th grade reading test scores were found to have a positively influence the odds of upward transfer.

However, students who reported behavioral problems while in high school were significantly less likely to transfer to a four-year institution than their counterparts who reported no disciplinary issues.

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.

Drawing from the results of the study and previous research, the report also offers resources and several key recommendations to increase students’ likelihood of transferring to a four-year institution.

“This brief is intended to illuminate the practices taking place in high schools and community colleges today that are already having a demonstrable influence on success. The longitudinal data surfaces important learnings that can be scaled across the country to ensure students have the best foundation for success,” said Ellen Wagner, Vice President of Research at Hobsons. “Our work with ACE is part of Hobsons’ ongoing efforts to help close the communication gap between secondary and postsecondary education to help more students maximize their potential.”

The findings of the report will be discussed in a webinar with the ACE researchers, Dr. Ellen Wagner, Hobsons’ Vice President of Research, and Dr. David Schuler, Superintendent of Township High School District 214. Click here for more details and to register.

Hobsons, the leading advising, admissions, and student success company, has partnered with ACE to conduct a series of research studies in 2017 and 2018.

To download the full report, visit here.


About the Center for Policy Research and Strategy

The American Council on Education’s (ACE) Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS) pursues thought leadership at the intersection of public policy and institutional strategy. CPRS provides senior postsecondary leaders and public policymakers with an evidence base to responsibly promote emergent practices in higher education with an emphasis on long-term and systemic solutions for an evolving higher education landscape and changing American demographic.

About ACE

Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents and related associations. It provides leadership on key higher education issues and influences public policy through advocacy. For more information, please visit

About Hobsons

Hobsons helps students identify their strengths, explore careers, create academic plans, match to best-fit educational opportunities, and reach their education and life goals. Through our solutions, we enable thousands of educational institutions to improve college and career planning, admissions and enrollment management, and student success and advising for millions of students around the globe.


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