November 21, 2000

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714
Source: Jim Arnold, 541-3346-5722

Data Dispels College Transfer Myths

EUGENE - A four-year research effort is helping Oregon educators dispel some of the myths related to the progression from community colleges to four-year universities.

New data indicate that Oregon's community college students don't move in lockstep fashion from two- to four-year schools. Nor do they experience significant loss of transfer credit or perform at lower levels than students who originally start at a four-year campus.

These findings come from a new report jointly developed by the Oregon University System (OUS) and the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD).

OUS and CCWD have been working together since 1995-96 to gather pertinent data and analyze what actually happens when Oregon students transfer from the state's community colleges to its four-year public universities.

What they've learned, says Jim Arnold, OUS director of community college articulation, is helping to dispel some of the myths associated with students' progression.

For example, one myth suggests that the number of community college students transfering to four-year schools is declining. Wrong. The facts show a clear increase.

The new study found that the number of transfers increased between 1996-97 and 1998-99, the most recent years for which data are available. Plus, the trend toward co-enrollment - where a student can simultaneously enroll at an Oregon community college and a public university - appears to be adding to the numbers. In 1997-98 some 1,100 students were co-enrolled in Oregon.

"We believe that, statewide, the co-enrollment numbers are increasing," Arnold says. "Three years ago, for example, there were about 330 students co-enrolled at Linn Benton Community College (in Albany) and Oregon State University (in Corvallis). This term, as part of a new OSU-LBCC initiative, there are nearly 880 co-enrolled."

Among other myths being dispelled:

  • The credit myth. Data show that community college students transfer a high percentage of their earned credits to a four-year school.

In an analysis of transcripts among students moving between Portland Community College, Mt. Hood Community College, Clackamas Community College and Portland State University, some 83 percent of earned credits were accepted for transfer. Of those not accepted, the reasons most often cited were low grades, remedial or duplicate coursework, professional-technical courses not designed for transfer, or credits beyond the maximum number allowed for transfer.

"In terms of credit acceptance and credit loss," says Arnold, "my impression is that the claims of credit loss have commonly been exaggerated."

  • The one-way myth. Students do not move in lockstep from high school to community college to four-year school. A study of 504 transcripts in the Portland area showed that 3 of 4 students moved to high education through one of 7 distinct patterns of attendance. Overall, however, 74 different enrollment patterns were identified among the 504 student transfers.

  • The performance myth. Transfer students actually perform at about the same academic level as non-transfers.

In 1998-99, the grade point average (GPA) of all Oregon community college transfer students in all university courses was 2.94 (on a system in which 4.0 equals A). First-time freshmen non-transfers had a 2.8 GPA.


OUS and CCWD officials plan to continue and expand the data-match effort. They hope the additional information will help inform both students and policymakers -- as well as impact future decision making about curricular decisions at community colleges and universities.


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