Colleges and Universities Suffer 8% Drop in Transfer Students

CAMBRIDGE, MA - DECEMBER 16: A gate sits locked on Quincy Street at Harvard University during a bomb scare December 16, 2013 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Police were alerted at roughly nine thirty this morning of possible bombs at four different buildings on the Harvard campus. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
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Colleges and universities in the United States have experienced a decline in student transfers in the wake of the Chinese coronavirus, according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Student transfers have dropped this year, as the total number of transfer students fell a little more than 8 percent in 2020 compared to fall 2019, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

“Typical pathways of transfer and mobility may be altered due to student concerns borne out of the pandemic, related to family finances, health, childcare, or a sudden need to move closer to home,” wrote the authors of the report.

“Early disruptions in institutional reopening plans due to COVID-19, coupled with the disparate economic and health impacts of the virus across different populations, make navigating these transfer options even more difficult,” they added.

The report added that the largest decrease has occurred in what is known as “reverse transfers,” which refers to students transferring from four-year institutions to two-year ones. Those types of transfers have declined by 19.4 percent.

“A multifaceted threat to community college enrollment — an 18.5 percent drop in freshmen, a 19.6 percent decline in reverse transfers, an 18.7 percent drop in returning students, and 7.2 percent fewer continuing students — presents potentially serious implications for the sector and for the students it serves,” the authors wrote.

“If the current trends continue, these divides will only grow, with a troubling risk that institutions will not survive, and would-be students will not manage to come back next year,” they added.

Student transfers from one four-year institution to another, or one two-year institution to another — those have decreased by 12 percent in 2020, which is four times the rate of decline in 2019.

As for transfers from two-year institutions to four-year ones, those have declined slightly by less than 1 percent. Re-enrollment for students who have previously dropped out of college has also decreased in 2020.

The authors went on to claim that the overall decline in student transfers could have a lasting effect on student success in general.

“The general dampening of student mobility identified in this report could have a lasting impact on postsecondary success and attainment, including affordable access to bachelor’s degrees for community college students, and critical opportunities for course-correction by students in all institutions whose goals have changed or who seek a stronger institutional fit,” they wrote.

“It is not clear whether the pandemic is driving students to stay put because decision-making and administrative hurdles are more difficult to overcome without face-to-face guidance and advising, because financial and technological barriers are weighing more heavily on students and their families, or because they are simply more reluctant to risk changing institutions amid the uncertainty of the health and economic crises,” they continued.

“As the pandemic continues to constrain these avenues of institutional choice, however, students will face ever larger barriers to degree completion, promising careers, and socioeconomic mobility,” the authors added.

A separate December Clearinghouse report revealed that the higher education sector lost 400,000 students this fall because of the Chinese coronavirus — which is twice the rate in 2019.

A third recent Clearinghouse report also shows the number of high school graduates going directly to college decreased by 22 percent this fall, adding that those graduates were mostly low-income and urban students.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, on Parler at @alana, and on Instagram.

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