EPI's weekly illustration of education data trends — May 15, 2018

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Do Transfer Students Graduate?


Data from the Beginning Postsecondary Student (BPS) 04/09 study from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) give us insight into the transfer outcomes of first-time, full-time students who began their studies in 2004 and followed up in 2009. This EPIGraph focuses on students who begin at a public four-year institution.

Overall, 59 percent of students who begin their degree program at a public four-year institution end up with a BA within six years of matriculation. Another five percent receive a different degree and 35 percent do not receive a degree of any type. For students who never transfer from their original institution, that 59 percent BA rate jumps to 69 percent and the 35 percent no degree rate drops to 28 percent. For students who transfer once, that BA rate falls precipitously to 33 percent and the non-degree rate jumps to 54 percent. Those who transfer twice see their BA rate drop to 28 percent.

Thus, transferring institutions does, overall, have a deleterious impact on degree completion at the four-year level. We understand that transfer can be in the best interest of certain students who find that the institution or the degree program does not suit their interest. But for most students, the data clearly illustrate that transfer works against their goals of earning a bachelor's degree.