Transfer student enrollment losses deepen: report

by Joseph K. Clark

Dive Brief:

  • According to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, transfer enrollment losses deepened this spring, with colleges reporting a 10% year-over-year decline in the number of students changing institutions.
  • It marks the steepest drop of any term during the pandemic and outpaces the 6.5% decrease in non-transfer enrollment this spring.
  • The declines were even more significant at community colleges, which have accounted for the bulk of the past year’s enrollment losses.

Dive Insight:

The data, which covers 94% of colleges that report to the Clearinghouse, helps illuminate the state of higher education enrollment at the close of the second academic year affected by the crisis.

enrollment losses deepen

Earlier reporting indicated fewer students would transfer this spring than did a year ago. The latest numbers offer more specifics on where those losses were most profound.

Community colleges reported the steepest declines, with more considerable decreases among students already enrolled in a college than those who had previously left school without a credential.

Transfer enrollment among traditional-age students, who the research identifies as between 18 and 24, dropped 13.6% year over year during the term. Students ages 30 and older fell only 2.5%.

Declines continued among male students, whose transfer enrollment fell 13.7% during the period — double the rate of women. The transfer rate from two- to four-year schools for men who were already enrolled in a college in the fall fell by about 5% from the prior year. These are the only two gender categories the survey reported.

The share of students transferring between four-year schools fell nearly 11% for the period, while those moving from a four-year to a two-year school sank 18%. Transfer between two-year schools saw similar levels of decline, at about 14%.

Some areas showed growth. Transfer from two-year to four-year schools rose 1.5% this spring. Traditional-age students and that aged 30-plus, Latinx, Asian, and women students saw even more significant increases in two-year to four-year transfers.

And declines eased among Black and White students at public four-year colleges compared to a year ago. Latinx and Asian students’ transfer enrollment grew nearly 2% at those schools.

According to other recent data from the Clearinghouse, overall undergraduate enrollment losses are expected to deepen this spring. Colleges are hopeful they’ll have more students on campus this fall, which could help schools that saw decreases revive their headcounts.

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