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Who is enrolling in the New England Transfer Guarantee? With three semesters worth of student-level enrollment data on this New England Board of Higher Education transfer initiative under our belt, Senior Program Manager Emily Decatur and I are now equipped to start answering this question and many more.

The New England Transfer Guarantee is a groundbreaking initiative, fully operationalized in the southern New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as of 2021. The program enables eligible community college graduates to transfer into participating four-year institutions—admission guaranteed.

Structured so as to align with existing state policy, the guarantee makes transfer straightforward regardless of sector. Community college graduates need only their associate degree and a minimum cumulative GPA to be granted admission to participating institutions in their state. In addition, admitted students are guaranteed that all their hard-earned credits will transfer to their bachelor’s degree program and that they will be eligible for institutional scholarships that will increase their savings on this baccalaureate credential. Because transparency is a core program value, institutions are encouraged to clearly display information about the dollar amount of institutional awards on their guarantee webpages.

Initially funded by the Teagle Foundation and the Davis Educational Foundation, this project has secured additional support from both the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the Balfour Foundation, who signed on to help NEBHE scale the guarantee to all six New England states—a process that’s currently underway.

Who is currently taking advantage of the guarantee? And, on the flip side, which groups of community college students might need additional information or resources to seize this valuable opportunity?

Based on our team’s analysis of student-level data for the 470 unique students who transferred through the guarantee between spring 2021 and spring 2022, here’s what we know:

  • Guarantee students have an impressive track record of academic achievement. Participating colleges and universities agree to a minimum GPA requirement in the memorandum of agreement that they must sign before officially starting to accept guarantee students. Participating institutions choose from the following options: 2.0, 2.5 or 3.0. Of the 406 students for whom community college GPA was reported, only 3 percent transferred with a GPA below a 2.5. The average cumulative community college GPA for guarantee students between spring 2021 and spring 2022 was a 3.33, which is well above the highest GPA threshold that participating institutions can select.
  • Guarantee students are consistently being awarded significant institutional scholarships. One of the major innovations of this initiative is the way it opens up consideration for substantial institutional scholarships to include community college transfer students. As has been previously reported, guarantee students who enrolled between spring 2021 and spring 2022 were awarded, in sum, well over $4.5 million in institutional scholarships and grants ($4,566,131, to be precise). NEBHE’s inaugural guarantee enrollment report, hyperlinked here, provides additional state-level details—not only average awards for full-time students but also minimum and maximum dollar amounts for scholarships. With maximum awards in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island coming in at approximately $34,000, $57,000 and $20,000, respectively, it seems clear to us that institutions are taking the guarantee’s emphasis on affordability very seriously.
  • Guarantee students tend to enroll full-time upon transfer to participating institutions. Because of the strong association between full-time enrollment and desirable vertical transfer outcomes, it was reassuring to see that over three-fourths (77 percent) of guarantee students in this inaugural reporting period are already enrolling full-time. Compiling the first guarantee enrollment report has also revealed areas of state-specific variability on certain data points—enrollment status being one of these. While programwide, the full-time enrollment rate is quite high, it actually tops 90 percent in Connecticut and Rhode Island; the tristate rate is significantly affected by the outlier of Massachusetts, where 31 percent of all guarantee students are enrolled part-time.
  • Guarantee students are, in various ways, diverse. Overall community college students trend on the older side, and the guarantee students analyzed in this inaugural enrollment report trend similarly—with a median age of 26 (with some notable variation based on full-time versus part-time enrollment status). Perhaps more interesting given the image of especially independent institutions of New England as very white, 44 percent of this group of guarantee students were identified as BIPOC in the data participating institutions submitted to NEBHE for the spring 2021 to spring 2022 terms.

Over the next few months, Emily and I will busy ourselves striving to make actionable meaning out of these top-level descriptive statistics.

Stats like average cumulative community college GPA will assist us as we seek to build program buy-in among administrators, faculty and staff who might not be as familiar with community college transfer students. Mitigating pernicious biases regarding the academic preparedness of community college grads can go a long way to creating campus cultures defined by what Dimpal Jain et al. might term “transfer receptivity.”

Findings related to institutional scholarship amounts will equip us to begin to generate materials that feature the approximate savings that students can expect by earning their bachelor’s through the guarantee rather than going straight into a bachelor’s degree program. Because sticker price still dominates transfer advising conversations, being able to show how much institutions are awarding in scholarships will go a long way to communicating the savings associated with earning a bachelor’s through the guarantee. For an even more detailed affordability picture, Emily and I will likely need to seek access to the federal grants and loans that are rounding out these institutional scholarships for guarantee students.

This data analysis—as well as the report in which it is presented in full—mark the beginning rather than the end of our team’s work.

Sarah Kuczynski is an assistant program manager for transfer initiatives at the New England Board of Higher Education. Emily Decatur is a senior program manager for transfer initiatives at NEBHE. For more information on NEBHE’s New England Transfer Guarantee, click here.

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