Every year, 80 percent of community college students say they intend to transfer to a four-year college and earn a bachelor's degree. But studies show that six years after they entered community college, only 14 percent of those students have gotten a four-year degree.
That's a missed opportunity, according to a new report by the American Talent Initiative, a partnership of some of the nation's top public and private universities, including the University of Washington. The partnership is working to increase the number of talented, low-income students who go to college.
The initiative released a report this week that describes how fixing this "blind spot" could greatly increase the number of low-income, first generation students and students of color who earn a bachelor's. It offers seven case studies that show ways to get more community college students to transfer, and finish, at four-year schools. Two of those case studies featured work being done at the UW.
At the UW, about 25 percent of undergrads enter as transfers, and they're more likely than traditional students to come from historically underrepresented groups. The report tells how the university offers a wide variety of services specifically for transfers, such as an online academic transfer planning tool, student webinars, weekly in-person admissions and advising sessions, separate orientation, and academic advisers assigned to each incoming transfer student.
The UW has worked to build stronger relationships with community college advisers, including an annual statewide conference and an event that gives community college advisers help with the admissions process, the report says.
The UW also uses technology to help give transfer students the information they need at the right time, particularly while these new students are settling into life on a university campus. Among the services: "nudge" messages that offer reminders and specific tips or services — delivered when students need them most.
The study found that more than 50,000 students in community college fail to transfer to a four-year school. And about 15,000 of those students earned a 3.7 GPA or higher in community college, a sign that they could have done well in a four-year school, researchers said.
UW President Ana Mari Cauce serves on the American Talent Initiative's seven-member steering committee, and the UW is the only Washington university that is part of the initiative. It is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and is a collaboration between the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program, the nonprofit Ithaka S+R, and dozens of public and private universities, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Cornell, Duke and Stanford, and many of the University of California schools.