Report: Community College Students Struggle To Transfer

A new report released Tuesday finds only 14 percent of community college students nationwide transfer to four-year schools and earn a bachelors’ degree within six years. The report by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College shows while the vast majority of students intend to earn a BA, few succeed.

“Too many students are failed by the current system of transfer between community colleges and universities,” said Davis Jenkins, Senior Research Associate at Columbia’s Community College Research Center. “This report enables us, for the first time, to see in which states colleges are supporting students in this journey so we can figure out what works and enable students everywhere to be successful.”

The report exposes a widening gap between lower-income students and their wealthier peers.

Among the students who enrolled at community college in 2007 and successfully transferred, 42 percent earned a bachelor’s degree. That’s far below the 60 percent of students who started at public four-year colleges.

Massachusetts, a state rich with private colleges and universities, was below the national average of 14 percent, but none of this may be as shocking as it seems.

“Our students move around a lot,” says Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, where the six-year graduation rate is around 11 percent. Eddinger says what’s lost in the statistics is the type of students served. Many work part- or full-time and fit in classes where they can.

“Your average student finishing in six years might have experienced two community colleges and two four-year colleges in their mix,” she says.

The report recommends two- and four-year colleges work together to align curricula and to better track academic credits.

Related: Community College Students Struggle to Balance Jobs and School

To see our community college series, visit College Material.

WGBH’s Forum Network: At the New England Board of Higher Education conference in Boston last year, educators discussed efforts to prepare and retain community college students.

[Cross-posted at On Campus: the WGBH Higher Education Blog]

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.