Interstate Passport Briefing

COVID-19: Transfer, Mobility and Progress, First Look Spring 2021

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, April 21, 2021

This latest report from the National Student Clearinghouse is the third in a series that examines transfer patterns since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year. Data show that, two months into the spring term, transfer enrollment is down 7.9 percent, a decline 3.8 times larger than last spring, which declined 2.1 percent. Declines are especially among community colleges with drop of 15.2 percent.


  • Students are less mobile along all transfer pathways, except for upward transfer where students grew three percent this spring over pre-pandemic levels. Both reverse and lateral transfer suffered steep enrollment declines of 21 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively.
  • Transfer enrollment decline is more evident among White and Black students than their Hispanic and Asian peers. Hispanic transfer enrollment currently shows the strongest growth in the public four-year sector.
  • With gender disparities growing across all age groups, transfer declines are larger for men, especially in upward transfer.
  • Transfer declined for continuing students at twice the rate of returning students this spring (-10.2 percent and -4.9 percent, respectively, from a year ago). Continuing students transferring to community colleges decreased 20.8 percent, ten times the pre-pandemic rate of decline.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center launched this series on transfer immediately after colleges and universities shuttered campuses due to the pandemic last year. The data paint a clear picture of how different types of students and institutions have fared in the wake of school closures and job losses, and the resultant economic downturn.

Read the full report here.

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