- Sliding transfer enrollment detected this past fall continued into the spring and is 7.9% behind year-ago levels, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. It is based on three-quarters of its reporting colleges.
- Community colleges saw an even greater drop, at 15.2%, while public four-year college transfer enrollment held steady year over year. Transfer enrollment fell 2.1% last spring.
- Lower overall fall enrollment levels and higher attrition from fall to spring contributed to the declines, according to the center.
The only type of transfer that increased this spring was that among students moving from two-year to four-year colleges, which rose 3%. Transfer within the two- and four-year sectors, as well as from four- to two-year colleges fell dramatically, at 9% and 21%, respectively.
While still preliminary, the data captures information from nearly three-quarters of schools that report to the Clearinghouse. Together, they account for more than half a million transfer students.
Declines were biggest among students who were already enrolled in a college, doubling the rate of those who had previously stopped out. The share of those continuing students transferring to community colleges this spring fell nearly 21%, or 10 times their pre-pandemic rate of decline.
Other groups that saw big drops in transfer enrollment this spring include men, students ages 18 to 24, and Black and White students.
The decline in transfer students this spring is on par with an 8.1% decrease reported for the fall.
Community colleges continued to absorb the deepest transfer losses this spring. The sector also has experienced the most significant overall enrollment decrease of all institution types.
Total undergraduate enrollment fell 3.6% year over year this past fall, driven in part by double-digit declines at community colleges. Early data on spring enrollment suggests those trends will continue.
The data comes as the higher ed sector looks for ways to improve the transfer process and to recruit students who previously left before finishing a credential. The American Council on Education recently shared ideas for revamping colleges' credit transfer policies, acknowledging the barrier credit loss presents to students changing schools.