While a recent report indicates that only one in five college students who transfer from a community college to a four-year college actually graduates, South Carolina education officials say that’s not the case here.
The study by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University; the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, found that across the country, only 14 percent of students starting community colleges and then transferring to a four-year college earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of starting their college experience.
Nationally, according to the report, the average graduation rate of students who transfer from a community college to a four-year college is about 42 percent. The national graduation rate for students who start at a four-year college is 60 percent.
“Too many students are failed by the current system of transfer between community colleges and universities,” said Davis Jenkins, Senior Research Associate at CCRC.
“This report enables us, for the first time, to see in which states colleges are supporting students in this journey so we can figure out what works and enable students everywhere to be successful,” he said. “Greater success for more students will cut down on the waste in taxpayer money when students drop out or lose credits as they transfer.”
Looking at students who started at 18 South Carolina community colleges in 2007 and transferred to a four-year institution, the study showed only 38 percent of students graduate within six years of starting college. Georgia schools fared worse with only 32 percent of its transfer students graduating. North Carolina schools fared slightly better with 40 percent graduating.
Kelly Steinhilper, director of communications for the South Carolina Technical College System, said the technical colleges do not collect information on what happens when their students transfer out of their school. However, she said, the statistics do not align with anecdotal evidence the organization has received from four-year colleges and universities in South Carolina.
“According to the feedback we’ve gotten as we work with four-year institutions across the state to put in place our transfer agreements, transfer students from our technical colleges fair better than other transfers,” she said.
The SC Technical College System works with both public and private colleges in the state to offer “Bridge” programs that allow students to start at a technical college and transfer to four-year institutions.
Currently, all 16 technical colleges have bridge programs with the University of South Carolina, Lander University and Coastal Carolina University. Individual technical colleges have similar programs with the other four-year institutions in the state.
In Bridge programs, students have to maintain a minimum GPA required by the college they are transferring into. Bridge students receive what amounts to a full freshman year of classes before transferring.
According to the SC Technical College System, bridge students typically experience a more streamlined transition and see greater success after transfer.