Transfer and Progress

Fall 2023 Report

February 28, 2024

Despite ongoing recovery efforts of the higher education community to regain pre-pandemic normalcy, there are lingering COVID-19 impacts on transfer enrollment. In particular, community colleges were the most affected sector of higher education during the pandemic with unprecedented declines in freshmen, continuing student enrollments, adult learners, and transfer-in enrollments, which had a ripple effect on overall transfer enrollment across higher education sectors. In fall 2023, we began to see signs of recovery with upward transfers among community college students increasing for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

This report series was created to help educational leaders and policymakers address enduring enrollment impacts from the pandemic. It aims to better serve the education community with new, timely, and detailed data that are only available through the Clearinghouse. These include postsecondary participation, mobility, and progress among economically disadvantaged students. It also includes data on disparities in pandemic recovery across differing student and institutional characteristics and transfer outcomes for entering community college students.

This report was created with support from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, for the expanded analyses on the pandemic recovery for community colleges and the Ascendium Education Group for student income analyses. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education, nor Ascendium Education.

The first portion of this report (dashboard tabs 1-4) describes the enrollment, demographic characteristics and transfer behaviors of 11.7 million undergraduate students in fall 2023, from a three-year fixed panel of institutions that had consistently reported data in fall 2021 to 2023 (representing approximately 89 percent of the Clearinghouse universe of institutions).

The second section (dashboard tabs 5 and 6) shows transfer-out rates, annual progress and six-year outcomes for cohorts of first-time community college students (6.4 million students across seven cohorts).

Highlights for Dashboard Tabs 1-4

  • The number of students who transferred into a new institution in fall 2023 grew 5.3 percent compared to fall 2022. Transfers represented 13.2 percent of all continuing and returning undergraduates, up from 12.5 percent last year.
  • Transfer enrollment increased along all pathways, with upward transfers growing the most, gaining 39,000 students (+7.7%).
  • Disadvantaged students, including those from lower-income backgrounds, Black and Hispanic groups, and from rural community colleges saw larger increases in transfer enrollment.
  • Upward transfer increased more in selective institutions than in less-selective institutions.
  • Two-year college students from middle and low neighborhood income backgrounds made large gains in transfer enrollment to more-selective four-year colleges.

Highlights for Dashboard Tabs 5 and 6

  • The size of the 2022 cohort of entering community college students grew to 851,000, up 7 percent compared to the 2020 cohort, which had severe declines at the onset of the pandemic. Most gains were seen among students 20 or younger, Hispanic, and those from lower-income neighborhoods.
  • Despite large enrollment declines for 2020 starters, their upward transfer rates rose above pre-pandemic levels in their second and third years of enrollment (+1.4 pp and +1.3 pp compared to 2019 cohort, respectively). For 2021 starters, second year upward transfer rates declined compared to the 2020 cohort (-0.4 pp to 5.7%) but rates still remained above pre-pandemic levels (+1.1 pp).

Download the Data Appendix (xlsx) and Methodological Notes (pdf). 

Navigate details for different institutions and students using the tabs at the top of the dashboard.

Upcoming Reports
Fall 2024
Early 2025
Fall 2025
Early 2026

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