Transferring to a Community College Derails Students


The good news came first. Community After taking classes at his college, Ricki Korba enrolled as a transfer student at California State University, Bakersfield. But when she logged into her student account, she got her mad. Most of her previous classes didn’t count.

The university rejected most of her science classes, she was told.

Now majoring in chemistry and music, Corva is retaking classes she once passed. That adds her one year to her studies and adds at least her $20,000 in tuition and fees.

“It just seems like a waste of time,” said Colva, 23, of Sonora, California. “I went to CSU and thought I was going to start a tough class and do a lot of cool labs.”

Hundreds of thousands of students enter community colleges each year in hopes of transferring to college. It’s touted as a cheaper path to a bachelor’s degree, an educational hack. A world of soaring school fees.

However, the reality is not so simple.The transfer process can be maze and confusing for some students derail college plans.

According to National Student Clearinghouse data, only 1 in 7 of nearly 1 million students enrolled in community colleges in 2016 earned a bachelor’s degree within 6 years.

One of the biggest obstacles is known as credit deterioration. When a student takes classes that do not count towards the degree.

sometimes it is the result of bad adviceWithout clear guidance from community colleges, students end up taking courses they don’t need. Responsibility can also lie with four-year colleges that have different rules for evaluating transfer credit. Some are more picky than others.

However, in many cases the result is the same. Students take longer to complete their degrees and tuition fees are higher. For many people, the extra work becomes unbearable.Finally, roughly Half of community college students drop out.

“For some students, it’s completely devastating,” said Jesse Ryan, vice president of the research group College Admissions Campaign. “These systems are designed for universities and educators, but not for students.”

The search for a solution yielded sporadic success. Many states have partnerships between colleges and universities to ensure that certain classes are transferred. More than 10 states have adopted a common class numbering system for consistency across schools.

Still, the problem occurs frustratingly often.

A recent study by the City University of New York system found that nearly half of students who transfer from community colleges to undergraduate programs have lost at least some kind of job. On average, these students lost almost a semester’s worth.

“The pipeline from community college to bachelor’s degree is a very leaky pipeline,” said Alexandra Logue, one of the researchers and former president of the CUNY system. Outcomes are worst among black, Hispanic, and low-income students, who are more likely to be admitted to community colleges, she said.

Corva thought he was taking the right classes at Columbia College, a community college in Sonora. She worked with a counselor and used her catalog online to indicate which courses were to be transferred to her CSU school.

But Bakersfield officials checked her transcripts and said most of her classes wouldn’t count as a major.

University officials declined to comment on Korba’s case, but said a small number of transfer units fell into a “gray area” and may require additional review. Dwayne Cantrell, chief admissions officer at Bakersfield University, said it’s rare for credits to be lost, and many classes at his college in the California community are automatically accepted.

Colva, who is facing an extra grade, is likely to run out of financial aid before graduating. I’m here. But she wonders how much she can make ends meet.

“I’m worried about how interested I can be in school. focus only on making money at work,” she said.

California, in particular, has long struggled to connect its 116 community colleges to over 30 public universities.

Mare Montañez graduates from San Francisco State University in May, but after retaking about a year’s worth of classes she’s already passed at community college. The school did not accept her major, psychology classes.

“I’m taking classes and thinking, ‘This is exactly what I took,'” Montañez, 34, said. increase.

University officials say classes look the same on paper, but the details of what is taught don’t always match. Still, they acknowledged that there is room for improvement.

SFSU’s Director of Undergraduate Education, Lori Beth Way, said:

No matter which school a student transfers to, transcripts are often reviewed by faculty. For example, a biology professor decides whether another school’s biology class counts.

But these decisions can be driven by stigma (some faculty members look down on community colleges) and financial incentives, says Rogue of CUNY.

Denying credit means students have to take more classes at their schools, she said. Departments may also hold higher standards for accepting classes towards their major than simply accepting them as a general requirement.

“It’s money and it’s keeping people’s jobs,” she said. “But that’s a very short-sighted view.”

Some states stepped in to remove subjectivity from the process. Maryland’s new rule states that a class must be accepted if it shares 70% of the learning objectives with an equivalent class. Students and community colleges must be accounted for when credit is rejected.

California made progress with a 2010 law requiring community colleges to offer special associate’s degrees that guarantee admission to CSU campuses. The 2021 law creates a set of general education classes that all eligible students must attend and be accepted at all state universities unless they opt out.

Two Virginia colleges go even further. From their first day on campus, Northern Virginia Community College students are offered a direct pathway to earning a bachelor’s degree at nearby George Her Mason College. Students receive dual enrollment at both schools and can choose from 87 academic paths that tell them exactly which classes they need.

known as advance, the program is designed to minimize credit losses and increase graduation rates. George Mason is working to extend this model to other community colleges.

“Students know what they have to take from day one. They know they won’t be slipping off the rug along the way,” said Jason Dodge, program director.


Editor’s Note: This article was written with support from, The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, The Dallas Morning News, The Hechinger Report, The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, and The Solution Journalism Network, The Seattle Times.


The Associated Press education team is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. AP is solely responsible for all content.