Predicting student persistence of community college transfer students to a large, urban, transfer destination four-year institution
The purpose of this study is to investigate the predictors of community college transfer student success. Through exploring student demographics and background characteristics (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender, first-generation student status, socioeconomic status, number of transfer credit hours, attempted/completed credits), significant predictors of community college transfer student persistence and completion can be identified and further explored. Specifically, the study examines three goals: a) the demographic and student characteristics of community college transfer students that influence persistence and completion, b) evidence of transfer shock and its longitudinal effect on student persistence and completion, c) and the identification of equity gaps among student populations (e.g. minority/non-minority, first-generation/non-first generation, and Pell-grant eligible/non-Pell-grant eligible) and educational achievement.
This study adopts four theoretical perspectives to explore predictors of community college transfer student success: 1) Tinto’s Longitudinal Model of Institutional Departure theory (1988); 2) Laanan’s Transfer Student Adjustment (2001); 3) Bean and Metzner’s Nontraditional Undergraduate Student Attrition model (1985) and; 4) lessons learned from Achieving the Dream (2017). Tinto’s Longitudinal Model of Institutional Departure (1988) has been widely utilized in retention and persistence research and the framework focuses on pre-entry characteristics, integration, and outcome decision to depart or persist which are vital components within this study (Metz, 2004). Laanan’s Transfer Adjustment Theory compliments Tinto’s model and provides a framework focusing on psychological, educational environment, and the campus climate that is specific to transfer students as they transition to a new environment. The community college student population consists of a large number of nontraditional students and Bean and Metzner’s Nontraditional Undergraduate Student Attrition model considers this population demographic within the framework. Finally, the study also focuses on the equity gaps that exist among the community college transfer student population and the priorities outlined in the national initiative, Achieving the Dream, lay a strong foundation in identifying predictors that enable, or prevent, transfer student success.
This study employed a longitudinal, quantitative approach, reviewing four years of transcript data through a transcript analysis. Descriptive statistics were used to examine the demographic characteristics of gender, age, race/ethnicity, parental education, first-generation student status, socioeconomic status, transfer credit hours, transfer shock, first-semester and fall-to-fall persistence, and completion. Frequencies were conducted to identify how academic success of students, described by GPA, transfer shock, first semester and fall-to-fall persistence and graduation rates compare among the student demographics of being minority/non-minority, first-generation/non-first-generation, and Pell-grant/non-Pell-grant eligible and a scorecard instrument was developed and further described. Chi-square tests were conducted between student groups to explore any significance in students who experience or do not experience transfer shock. Finally, logistic regressions were conducted to determine the independent variables that were the predictors of community college transfer student persistence and completion.
The results indicated that community college transfer students are largely nontraditional by age and over one-third of the student population are of minority status. Similarly, over one-third of the students were also Pell-grant eligible. First-generation students accounted for almost half of the student population. The majority of students transferring to the four-year, public Urban Transfer institution were also transferring less than 60 credit hours and almost half of these students experience transfer shock during their first semester. While the majority of students persisted through the first semester at the institution, just over half of the students persisted through the first year. The majority of students had not completed a bachelor’s degree by the end of the study.
The results from the frequencies analysis to identify gaps within student groups and academic success, as described by first semester persistence, fall-to-fall persistence, transfer grade point average (GPA), first-semester GPA, transfer shock, and completion identified that minority students often fell below or far below the target rate in comparison to non-minority students. Students who were Pell-grant eligible or first-generation fell below the target, identifying a gap in comparison to the non-minority student population.
The correlations conducted to identify significant relationships between student populations who experience a reduction in GPA after the first semester of transfer indicated no statistical significant relationships in background characteristics including, gender, minority/non-minority, first-generation student status, socioeconomic status, and transfer credit hours. The first logistic regression indicated that students’ attempted/completed credit ratio, socioeconomic status, and reduction in first semester GPA significantly predicted fall-to-fall persistence. The second logistic regression indicated that students’ attempted/completed credits ratio, reduction in first semester GPA, and transfer credit hours significantly predicted completion among the community college transfer student population.