Persistence, Not Access, Is Problem for 2-Year Students, Report Says

August 22, 2007

Most high-school graduates who enter California’s community colleges intending to transfer eventually to a four-year institution either drop out or no longer consider transferring a primary goal after just one semester, according to a report released this week by Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent research center based at the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University.

The report, “Beyond Access: How the First Semester Matters for Community-College Students’ Aspirations and Persistence,” is based on a study that followed students ages 17 to 20 who enrolled at a California community college for the first time in the fall of 1998. Of all of those students, less than one-third transferred to a four-year institution during the six years following their enrollment in the community-college system.

Of students who earned high-school diplomas and cited transferring to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree as a primary goal, 41.3 percent ultimately transferred within six years, the study found. One-quarter of those students did not return to their community college for a second semester, in the spring of 1999. Of those who did return, only four in 10 still said transferring was a primary goal.

Authors of the report said their findings suggested that students needed more preparation to be able to make the transition from high school to college, and to persist in their studies. —Sara Hebel