Students Who Transfer from Community Colleges to Four-Year Institutions: How Does their Performance Compare to that of Students Who Entered from High School?

What percentage of students who are attending four-year American colleges started out at community colleges? Are they more, or less, likely to graduate than students who entered directly from high school?

If you have been asking questions like those, we would like to direct your attention to “Persistence,” a study conducted by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. (Note that “Persistence” resulted from an analysis of data gathered between the years 2010 and 2016.)

Here are some of the key findings:

Students who transfer from community colleges make up only 7% of the students who are attending selective institutions. In contrast, 10% of the students who attend selective institutions transferred in from other four-year institutions, and 83% entered directly from high school. Note: The study defines “selective” as institutions that Barron’s calls “most competitive” or “highly competitive.”

Students who transferred from community colleges are more likely to graduate than other students are. The study found that 75% of students who transferred from community colleges graduate from four-year colleges, compared to 73% of students who entered directly from high school and 61% of students who transferred from other four-year institutions.

Students who started at community colleges comprise nearly half of all students who are attending four-year colleges. The study determined that 49% of all students attending four-year colleges started out at community colleges.

Many community colleges encourage their students to transfer to four-year institutions. The majority of American community colleges – 84% – report that they have placed at least one student into a selective four-year college.

Yet graduates of four-year high schools are more likely to attend selective colleges. A small percentage of students who transfer from community colleges – only 9% – enter selective colleges, compared to 21% of students who are enrolling after high school.

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