Interstate Passport Briefing Transfer News

COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility, and Progress, Final Fall 2020 Report

The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) recently released the second report in a series on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student transfer and mobility. This report presents a more complete picture of fall 2020 transfer patterns and shows sharp declines in enrollment and student mobility. As in the first report that came out this fall, 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. The report shows that the decline in student transfer and mobility is “steep and widespread,” with significant demographic disparities.

Report Highlights:*

  • Fall transfer student enrollment fell 8.1 percent over last year, more than triple the drop in non-transfer students this fall (-2.4 percent).
  • Student mobility fell across all transfer pathways. Reverse transfers decreased the most (19.4 percent), followed by lateral transfers (-12.6 percent) and upward transfers (-0.7 percent).
  • Community colleges saw an 18.5 percent drop in freshmen, a 19.6 percent decline in reverse transfers, an 18.7 percent drop in returning students, and 7.2 percent fewer continuing students.
  • Four-year colleges experienced relatively smaller declines in transfer enrollment as well as overall enrollment during the pandemic.
  • Black and Hispanic transfer students have been impacted the most, particularly at community colleges, whereas Asian students made gains in the four-year college sector.
  • Male student mobility declined sharply during the pandemic, regardless of age.
  • While fewer students re-enrolled this fall after a stop-out, more opted for primarily online institutions this fall than they did pre-pandemic.

*Source: Causey, J., Harnack-Eber, A., Lang, R., Liu, Q., Ryu, M., and Shapiro, D. (December 2020), COVID-19 Transfer, Mobility, and Progress, Report No. 2, Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The PDF version of this report is available here:

NCS plans to release the third report in the series, with the first snapshot of Spring 2021 patterns, in March 2021.

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