With the academic calendar signaling the start of a new school year, this blog post will serve as the last installment of our summer series on community colleges in Texas. Our previous posts looked at enrollment trends at community colleges, including the importance of dual credit in Texas, as well as challenges facing transfer students seeking to transition from 2-to-4 year institutions. In this blog post, we will look at data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) “Transfer Report 2022” that shows how successful community college transfers have been in earning a bachelor’s degree within four years of being classified as a college junior.
- As can be seen in the Statewide Trends visualization below, 86% of non-transfer students and 68% of community college transfers in the fall 2017 cohort earned their degree within four years of becoming juniors at their university. This represents an 18-percentage point difference between the two cohorts.
- Over the course of the 13 years in the Transfer Report, the averages remained fairly steady for each group: 84% for non-transfer students and 66% for community college transfer students in the junior cohorts.
- Under the Peer Group Comparisons tab, we can see that the two Research Institutions (Texas A&M University and University of Texas at Austin) collectively have the highest graduation rates for both non-transfer and community college transfer students. The group of Doctoral Institutions have the lowest graduation rates for non-transfer students at 79%, while community college transfers fare worst at the Master’s Institutions in Texas with a graduation rate of 62%.
Note: On the University Comparisons visualization, universities are shown within their THECB-defined Peer Group. Use the drop-down menu at the top to change group selection.
- Within the University Comparisons tab, Texas A&M University has the overall highest graduation rate for non-transfer students in the junior cohort at 95% and is tied with UT Austin at 89% of CC transfer students earning a degree within four years.
- For Emerging Research institutions, UT Dallas leads with a 91% graduation rate for non-transfer students in the junior cohort, while Texas Tech University’s 81% graduation rate for CC transfer students is the highest in this peer group. TTU also has the smallest achievement gap at 7 percentage points.
- In the combined Doctoral & Comprehensive visualization, Stephen F. Austin State University had the highest graduation rates for both non-transfer (89%) and CC transfer (82%) students in the junior cohort. Texas Southern University had the lowest graduation rates for non-transfer students at 64% and Lamar University had the lowest graduation rates for CC transfer students at 54%.
- Sul Ross State University (80% vs 72%) and Angelo State University (87% vs 86%) were the only two universities where CC transfer students had higher graduation rates than non-transfer students in the THECB’s junior cohort data.
There has been a long-held sentiment in higher education that community college transfers are more successful in earning a bachelor’s degree than first-time-in-college students who start at a four-year university. Depending on when you start the “graduation clock”, that statement can be accurate.
- For example, the THECB’s statewide 6-year graduation rate for the fall 2016 first-time-in-college cohort was 51% when you only count those students who graduated by AY2021-2022 from the same university where they started.
- By comparison, the 4-year statewide graduation rate for community college transfer students in the fall 2018 cohort was 57% for those finishing a bachelor’s degree from the same university as their initial transfer.
- However, when you hold the starting point constant, as shown in the THECB’s Junior Cohort study, non-transfer, or “native” students generally hold a large margin over community college transfer students when comparing 4-year graduation rates.
The overall 18-percentage point difference between non-transfer and community college transfer students in the Junior Cohort Study highlights the challenge facing higher education in Texas as we collectively seek to close achievement gaps while increasing educational attainment for all students, especially those seeking to use university-level education as a means for upward mobility for their families, communities, and generations to come.