Tracking Transfer

Measures of Effectiveness in Helping Community College Students to Complete Bachelor’s Degrees

Updated April 18, 2024

This series was first developed in 2016 as a collaborative effort among the Clearinghouse Research Center, the Community College Research Center at Columbia University (CCRC), and Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program.

The Signature Tracking Transfer report was released in 2017 and in each following year the key metrics are updated for a new cohort of entering community college students. These metrics enable colleges and institutions to benchmark and measure progress and completion for transfer students from two- to four-year institutions. The annual updates are available as spreadsheet downloads; please see the original 2017 report for an explanation of the metrics and methodology.

The current update examines students entering community college for the first time in the fall 2016 term and their transfer-out and bachelor’s completion rates within six years.

Highlights from 2016 Entering Cohort

  • Fewer than a third of students who began at a community college in the fall 2016 transferred to a four-year institution within six years (31.2%). Of those who did transfer, about half completed a bachelor’s degree (49.1%; 15.7% of the entire cohort). These rates are consistent with the previous entering cohort, after several years of small increases.
  • About a third of the 2016 cohort earned an associate degree or certificate (32.1%). Nearly half of all students who transferred from a two-year to four-year institution did so after earning a sub-baccalaureate credential (45.2%).
  • Only one in ten lower-income students who began at a community college ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree within six years (10.6%). This rate is less than half the rate that their higher-income peers earned bachelor’s degrees (21.9%).
  • Three quarters of transfer students moved to a public four-year institution, where their bachelor’s completion rate was highest compared to transfer students at other sectors (47.4% for public; 34.4% for nonprofit and 12.2% for for-profit).

Signature Report:
2010 cohort

Tracking Transfer Report Cover

Annual Updates

Spring 2024 Update: 2016 cohort
Data Update (xlsx)

Fall 2022 Update: 2015 cohort
Data Update (xlsx)

Fall 2021 Update: 2014 cohort
Data Update (xlsx)

Fall 2020 Update: 2013 cohort
Data Update (xlsx)

Fall 2019 Update: 2012 cohort
Data Update (xlsx)

Fall 2018 Update: 2011 cohort
Data Update (xlsx)

The CCRC released an analytical guide for community colleges to monitor and evaluate their own transfer bachelor’s degree outcomes using degree and enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse. The first part of this two-part guide provides instructions on how to identify the cohort, prep the Clearinghouse Research Center data files for analysis, and calculate the outcomes included in the Tracking Transfer Report Series. The second part provides suggestions on the methods that institutions can use to evaluate the effectiveness of transfer partnerships (learn more).

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