• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Data on Transfers

Hoping to fill an information gap.

November 22, 2022

Does your state do a good job (or require four-year schools to do a good job) of reporting to community colleges on how well their students do upon transfer to four-year schools?

Mine doesn’t, and I don’t think it’s unusual in that. It’s a missed opportunity.

In principle, it shouldn’t be all that hard to do. Colleges know who their transfer students are, and there’s nothing novel about calculating and reporting graduation rates disaggregated by race and sex. That’s standard procedure at this point.

A slightly deeper dive would be much more helpful. If they were broken out by major or groups of majors, we’d have a better chance to identify strengths and weaknesses. Identifying weaknesses could help target efforts at improvement; identifying strengths could help refute arguments against accepting transfer credits. (That may be why data aren’t always forthcoming.)

In the absence of systematic data, anecdotes rule by default. They’re something, but they’re subject to all manner of bias. One memorable but outlying case can give a misleading impression that can go unrebutted for years.

Evaluation can go the other way, too. If we discovered that a given receiving school was particularly inhospitable to women students and/or students of color coming from community college, that should spark some serious discussions about changes the receiving school should make. Again, right now we’re relying on anecdote when we have anything at all.

If the data included students who transferred before graduating—which would be my preference—we could sort out whether finishing the associate’s degree first is helpful.

Wise and worldly readers, if you were in a position to ask on behalf of a community college, what would you want to know?

Program note: The blog will take a brief break for Thanksgiving, returning on Monday, Nov. 28. As always, I’m grateful to my wise and worldly readers for making this worthwhile. Happy Thanksgiving!

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