Dissertation

Transfer receptivity: student perceptions of institutional support for the transfer agenda at a four-year university

Access to higher education in the U.S. is seen as an opportunity for social mobility. California’s Master Plan for Education created a three tier system to provide educational opportunities for its citizens. By design, transfer pathways were implemented to allow students to begin their higher education journey at open access community colleges and transfer into four-year public institutions for bachelor’s degree completion. Institutional support for transfer students, however, is almost non-existent at most four-year receiving institutions (Eggleston& Laanan, 2001). This qualitative study sought to understand the experiences of transfer students who transferred to a four-year receiving institution from a community college and thereafter departed from the university without persisting to degree attainment. I interviewed transfer students about their experiences and the findings contribute to the broader understanding of the transfer student experience. Tinto’s theory of student departure, which emphasizes the importance of institutional transfer receptivity in students’ decisions about persistence and departure, provided a valuable theoretical framework from which to operate. Four major themes emerged at the conclusion of my interviews: recognizing the value of the community college experience; understanding the external opportunities of transfer students; accepting institutional commitment to the transfer agenda; and experiencing the transfer students’ movement from expert to novice in the middle of the post-secondary educational journey. Recommendations urge both higher education administrators to evaluate their institutional commitments to transfer student success and state policy makers to reinvest in the transfer agenda.

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