Community College Transfer Outcomes: A Measure of Accountability

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Purpose. Most community college students do not graduate let alone transfer to university. Hence, the purpose of this qualitative study was to (a) examine the learned experiences of California community colleges and California State University (CSU) administrators and staff in implementing the California Student Transfer Achievement Reform (STAR) Act, 2010 as it relates to transfer to a university and (b) conduct an analysis of institutional (community colleges and universities) strategic plans, community college completion data, and the CSU undergraduate enrollment report. Theoretical Framework: This study was based on the accountability theoretical framework specifically of professional, political, and legal principles coupled with the learning, democratic, and constitutional accountability perspectives. Methodology. Nineteen semistructured interviews were conducted with participants from 3 community colleges and 3 CSU campuses in the Central Valley region of California. The participants were administrators and staff with firsthand experience and knowledge pertaining to transfer . Institutional strategic plans, community college completion data, and the CSU undergraduate enrollment report were analyzed to gain an in-depth understanding of transfer. Findings. Review of the qualitative data suggests that the community colleges and CSUs are addressing the requirements of the STAR Act, 2010. The different articulation, transfer, and admission requirements at the CSUs create confusion for students. The data indicate an increase in both associate degrees for transfer (ADTs) awarded at the community colleges and undergraduate enrollment at the CSUs. However, the data also demonstrate a percentage decrease in undergraduate transfer enrollment at the CSUs including 2 of the CSUs that were part of the study. Notably, the percentage of community college transfer students who earn a bachelor’s degree in 2 years is significantly higher than freshman students who do so in 4 years. Conclusions and Recommendations. From the data, the percentage of ADTs awarded by the community colleges in California has increased in the last 5 years (2012–2017). However, current data indicate that the percentage of transfer community college students enrolled at the CSUs is still low. Public universities should review and make changes to their articulation, transfer, and admissions processes to better increase the number of community college students who transfer to a university. Future laws and processes should keep in mind the complex lives students live and need to better support transfer students at the university.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Education, Community Colleges