• Joanne Jacobs

‘Transfer maze’ costs time, money

Starting at a low-cost community college, then transferring to a four-year university is supposed to be the cheapest route to a bachelor’s degree. But many California students waste time and money earning unneeded and untransferable credits, reports the Campaign for College Opportunity.

“This “transfer maze means it is more cost-effective for a student to go to a four-year university than start at a two-year university,” CCO’s Audrey Dow told Mikhail Zinshteyn on EdSource.


Most community college students say they want to transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree, but only 4 percent did so after two years and 38 percent after six years.

Those who do transfer average 87 units  – nearly 50 percent more than required, estimates the Foundation for California Community Colleges.

With little guidance on which credits will transfer, “students are forced to piece together an education plan with inconsistent requirements demanded by the different systems, schools, and departments,” said the report.

A two-year degree usually requires 60 credits, but the average two-year graduate has earned 22 extra credits, according to a July 2017 Complete College America report. “That’s three-quarters of an entire academic year on top of the two-year program,” writes Hechinger’s Jill Barshay. “For part-time students, that’s years of needless courses.”

Most community college students don’t have a plan, said Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center of Teachers College Columbia University. “Students are entering community colleges to save money, but if you end up taking excess credits, you’re not really saving money.”

Nationwide, college students who transfer lose nearly half of the college credits they earned, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

City University of New York is using a pathways approach to help community college students earn transferable credits, writes Alexandra Logue in Education Next.

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