One of the biggest challenges that community college students face is successfully transferring community college credits to their new school. Only 58 percent of transfer students are able to bring 90 percent or more of their credits with them, according to a 2014 study by Paul Attewell and David Monaghan of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. They hypothesize that graduation rates for transfer students would actually increase 46 to 54 percent if not for the loss of academic credits when students transfer.
"When transferring, a student should start researching early to find programs and schools that are a good match for his/her educational and career goals," says Teri Mickle, associate director of admissions at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. She points out that general education requirements aren't universal across institutions, making it imperative to work with transfer counselors as early on in the process as possible. "A counselor can tell you which classes are best to complete at a community college, and which ones you should wait to take at your transfer school," she says. Research and planning early in your academic career can help you find schools that best accommodate transfer students, which in turn may help you successfully transfer the bulk of your community college credits.
How to Identify Transfer-Friendly Colleges
Once you have an inkling that you might want to transfer schools, you should start identifying schools with robust transfer programs. "A school that welcomes transfer students into the community and acknowledges expectations as well as concerns, helps with student success," says Mickle. You'll know early on if a school accommodates transfer students by how responsive it is to your inquiries and how much information is made available about the transfer program via its website. When you are researching schools to decide where you want to transfer, here are some school features to keep in mind:
Look for signs of support. This includes schools that offer transfer scholarships, have admissions staff dedicated to working with transfers, and even institutions that offer orientations, campus visits and tours specifically for transfer students, says Wendi Pelfrey, assistant director of undergraduate recruitment for Middle Tennessee State University.
Look for courses that are likely to transfer. A potential transfer school should be able to outline the types of courses they accept. As a good rule of thumb, loading up on "fun courses" early on can come back to haunt you if you're planning to transfer, says Daren Upham, vice president of enrollment at Western Governors University (WGU). "Students should have a well-rounded course load, enrolling in science, technology, and math courses. More often than not, these credits will transfer," he says.
Look for evidence of partnerships with four-year schools. Many schools have relationships with other institutions that guarantee a smooth transfer, says Doris Rousey, executive dean of educational partnerships at Brookhaven College. "Students should ask whether the college has a pathway established from the community college to the university that details the courses that should be taken within the first two years, ensuring transferability of these courses directly into the specific major or college at the receiving university," she says.
Top Transfer-Friendly Colleges
To help you get started with your research, here are the colleges that boast the highest number of undergraduate transfer students, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics from the 2014-2015 school year. These schools have policies aimed to make it easy for students to transfer their community college credits.
1. Western Governors University
Students who have earned an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree will typically enter WGU with upper-division standing and 40 competency units waived, explains Upham. "This is especially true of graduates of any of the dozens of community colleges WGU partners with around the country," he says. Credits from those schools transfer to WGU bachelor's degree programs seamlessly. Transfer students from partner colleges may also be eligible for exclusive scholarships at WGU. WGU's students are mostly nontraditional students who are working adults with some college experience in their background.
2. Grand Canyon University
Part of Grand Canyon University's transfer student success stems from its easy credit evaluation process, says Sarah Boeder, executive vice president of operations. "We offer a very easy process to upload unofficial transcripts on our website for a free evaluation of college credits. The evaluation is typically completed within 24 hours, and students are advised of which programs will accept the most transfer credits," she explains.
Grand Canyon University not only provides free transcript evaluation prior to enrollment, but prospective transfers also get an estimated graduation date and a free financial estimate, says Boeder. "GCU's process is very transparent, so the student knows exactly what it's going to take even before engaging in the application process."
Grand Canyon University students are typically community college graduates, transfers from other four-years schools or adults who earned college credits several years ago and never finished their degree.
3. Kaplan University - Davenport
At Kaplan University, prior learning credits can total up to 75 percent of your degree requirements. How's that for incentive to work toward your bachelor's? The quickest way toward earning viable transfer credits is if you are coming from a community college that has a relationship with Kaplan University. You may even be eligible for a tuition grant if that's the case. Kaplan University also awards credits for work and life experiences, military training and some professional certifications.
4. Thomas Edison State College
Thomas Edison State College (TESC) is great for older transfer students because of its policy to validate prior college level learning, even if it occurred outside of the college’s coursework or even outside of a traditional classroom, says Juliette Punchello, director of academic advising. "We were designed to enable self-directed adult students to utilize prior college transfer credits, ACE evaluated credits such as military and corporate training programs, as well as college-level knowledge gained outside of the classroom, toward the completion of a college degree through independent study methods," she says.
TESC's transfer policy enables students to transfer and apply up to 80 credits from any regionally accredited community college and up to 120 credits from any regionally accredited four-year college toward the bachelor’s degree requirements. The age of the credits is usually not a factor.
5. University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida (UCF) prides itself on making the transition into the school as easy as possible, says Mark Schlueb, a UCF spokesperson. Florida has long had a 2+2 system that guarantees entry into a state university for those who earn an associate degree from a state community college, he explains. In 2006, UCF launched the DirectConnect to UCF program, which offers guaranteed entrance and accelerated admission to students who complete an associate degree at specific partner state colleges in Central Florida. "High school students applying to these five state colleges can also signal their desire to attend UCF on their application and are similarly guaranteed admission once they earn a two-year degree," says Schlueb. Two thirds of the school's transfer students come from state colleges, in part due to the DirectConnect to UCF pipeline.
6. Liberty University
Like most transfer-friendly schools, Liberty University Online aims to evaluate transcripts as quickly as possible to allow the student to make the best choices for their class selection. "Many evaluations are completed within 24 hours," says Steve Peterson, Ed.D., vice president of admissions. Liberty has also forged strong relationships with community colleges across the country.
As for the typical transfer student profile, many are people who have started college at some point in their life, but were unable to complete their degree, says Peterson. "They are going back to school to complete unfinished business. The online format offered by Liberty University allows for college to fit into their life."
7. Ashford University
Ashford University considers both traditional and nontraditional experience when awarding transfer credits to its students. The traditional way is via articulations agreements with hundreds of community colleges, which list which courses from your community college may be transferred for credit. Ashford also has a prior learning team who will assess how your work experience, job training, military background or national testing programs can help you earn credits.
8. Florida International University
Florida International University (FIU) takes part in Florida's statewide 2+2 program. Therefore, anyone graduating from a Florida public community college with an Associate of Arts will enter FIU as a junior, and they will have satisfied the university's general education requirements. With more than 8,000 transfer students each year, many of whom are eligible for departmental scholarships, FIU earns an A+ in transfer-friendliness.
Here is a chart of additional schools that also accept a high number of undergraduate transfer students. The green bar shows the ratio of transfer students compared to the school’s overall enrollment, which is the brown bar. Whichever school you choose, make sure you plan ahead to get the credits you deserve.
- American Educational Research Association, http://www.aera.net/Newsroom/NewsReleasesandStatements/StudyCommunityCollegeTransfersasLikelytoEarnaBAasFour-YearStudents,DespiteCreditTransferRoadblocks/tabid/15418/Default.aspx
- Daren Upham, Vice President of Enrollment at Western Governors University (WGU), interviewed by author via email, 4/24/2015
- Doris E. Rousey, Executive Dean, Educational Partnerships, Brookhaven College, interviewed by author via email, 4/21/2015
- Juliette Punchello, Director, Office of Academic Advising, Thomas Edison State College, interviewed by author via email, 4/20/2015
- Mark Schlueb, Senior Communications Coordinator, UCF, interviewed by author via email 4/20/2015
- National Center for Education Statistics, “Transferability of Postsecondary Credit Following Student Transfer or Coenrollment,” nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014163.pdf
- Sarah Boeder, Executive Vice President of Operations, Grand Canyon University, interviewed by author via email, 4/16/2015
- Steve Peterson, Ed.D.. Vice President of Admissions, Liberty University Online, interviewed by author via email 4/22/2015
- Teri Mickle, associate director of admissions at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, interviewed by author via email, 4/20/2015
- Wendi Pelfrey, assistant director of undergraduate recruitment, Middle Tennessee State University, interviewed by author via email, 4/21/2015