The road less traveled : factors affecting community college transfer student admission to a public flagship university
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Although much has been written about the challenges affecting transfer students, a mixed method study on transfer admission, particularly at the institutional level is an intriguing, albeit unexplored endeavor. In Texas, there is an added dimension of interest given the presence and popularity of the Top 10% Law. This study sought to provide a comprehensive portrait of transfer admission at The University of Texas at Austin from the 1990s to 2007. A sequential explanatory design was employed to identify changes in transfer admission policy and practice and to address if there were differences in admission rates among the major transfer pathways to the state’s largest flagship institution (Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003). Two main conclusions emerged from this study. First, transfer admission became more competitive and selective after the passage of the state’s Top 10% Law in 1997. Second, qualitative and quantitative findings suggested the implementation of a conditional transfer guarantee program for highly selective freshman applicants resulted in significantly less opportunity for transfer applicants from community colleges and other transfer routes to be admitted. Based on these findings, recommendations included reinvesting in a community college transfer student recruitment and scholarship program and significantly reducing the size of the university’s conditional transfer guarantee program for admissible freshmen applicants. A final suggestion was to identify and value the community college route in the holistic transfer admission process given the large proportion of first-generation college, low-income students who comprise this population. To avoid perceptions of sponsored mobility and to promote a social justice rationale, a pre-selection transfer program to prospective freshmen should be revisited given the adverse effects on the community college transfer population. With over 600,000 students enrolled in Texas 2-year colleges, a viable pathway to the state’s most prestigious flagship university provides increased opportunities for social mobility to the many competitively admissible first-generation and low-income students populating public 2-year colleges and seeking a baccalaureate degree from UT Austin.