Which policies and practices influence vertical transfer and baccalaureate attainment among community college entrants? : a multi-level analysis




Brown, Raymond Stanley

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Community colleges serve many roles, but perhaps their most important is as a stepping-stone to a four-year institution. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, baccalaureate attainment for those beginning at a community college has declined. This waning has sparked an effort by legislators, community college leaders, and educational researchers to identify policies and practices to improve these outcomes. This study contributes to this by using a nationally representative sample of first-time college students to explore which factors at the student, institution, and state level are associated with vertical transfer and baccalaureate attainment. Results from a multi-level model illustrate that variables at all three analysis levels were significantly related to vertical transfer or baccalaureate attainment. At the student level, meeting with an academic advisor, staying continuously enrolled as a full-time student, working part-time or less, and choosing a transfer-oriented major were positively associated with vertical transfer or baccalaureate attainment, while transferring horizontally (to another institution at the same level) was negatively related to baccalaureate attainment. At the institution level, the local unemployment rate was positively related and percent Pell recipients was negatively related to these outcomes. Cooperative agreements and statewide articulation guides were positively related to vertical transfer or baccalaureate attainment at the state level. The results offer insights that may be useful to higher education stakeholders and policymakers. I conclude with considerations for policy and practice, as well as for future research.


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