National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, October 2020
The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) has released the first in a new report series that examines transfer and mobility in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, transfer options have been made even more difficult since spring 2020 when colleges and universities were forced to close campuses temporarily and the economy headed toward recession. For this report NSC tracked the transfer and mobility pathways of students who enrolled in fall 2020, focusing on three student groups: first-time students; returning students (those who had a stop-out without undergraduate completion and re-enrolled in the current term); and continuing students (those who continued enrollment from the preceding term, with or without having earned an associate degree or certificate). Transfer and mobility were tracked across institutions, sectors, and states, including over summer terms and after a lapse of enrollment.
Findings on enrollment:
- Undergraduate enrollment fell 4.5 percent over last year as a result of sharp declines in both freshman enrollments and students returning after a stop-out.
- First-time enrollment fell considerably at all types of institutions except for private for-profit four-year institutions (+3.7 percent).
- Public four-year and private nonprofit four-year institutions suffered steep declines (-13.7 percent and -11.8 percent, respectively)
- Community colleges were hit hardest, with a 22.7 percent drop. First-time enrollment dropped regardless of age or gender, but delayed entry students (age 21-24) declined the steepest at 28.0 percent, and men declined more than women (-18.1 percent vs. -14.6 percent). This signifies a looming crisis for community colleges.
Findings on transfer:
- Transfer enrollments are down 4.7 percent from last fall, declining somewhat more steeply than undergraduate enrollments generally (-4.5 percent).
- Each transfer pathway responded differently. The number of reverse transfers fell much more (-18.4 percent), along with summer swirlers (-10.8 percent) and lateral transfers (-8.3 percent), while upward transfers unexpectedly increased by 2.6 percent.
- Students who had stopped out prior to the outbreak are less likely to have come back at all this fall, and less than half of those who came back transferred.
- Continuing students – those who maintained enrollment since the COVID-19 outbreak – accounted for the growth in upward transfers this fall. Most transferred without finishing an associate degree and these students are on the rise.
- A growing number of upward transfer students crossed state lines this fall.
Interstate Passport Network institutions should take note of these last two findings. Four-year institutions, in particular, with incoming transfer students should do everything possible to ensure that students receive credit for learning already achieved. And as more students transfer across state lines the Passport becomes even more valuable.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center will continue to collect and analyze data for this series. In recognition of the pandemic’s impact on students and institutions, the Center will ‘disseminate rapid response information and context for the education community and individual learners seeking to understand how the pandemic is changing transfer pathways across higher education over the next two years. The transfer pathways considered will be defined broadly to include vertical, lateral, and reverse transfer.”
The target release schedule for future reports is as follows:
- Fall 2020 December 21, 2020
- Spring 2021 March 2021, May 2021
- AY2020-21 July 2021
- Fall 2021 October 2021, December 2021
- Spring 2022 May 2022
- Final Special Report Summer 2022
The PDF version of the COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress, First Look Fall 2020 Report is available here [https://nscresearchcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/Covid19-TransferMobilityProgress-FirstLookFall2020.pdf].