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The problem with such advice is that a lot of students never make it to the four-year college.
Even when researchers control for family background, achievement and ambition, those who start at two-year schools are far less likely to complete a bachelors degree.
One of the reasons may be that credits earned in community college often don’t transfer to the four-year school. Students who aren’t savvy about the transfer process may not realize how picky four-year institutions can be.
That’s leading a lot of otherwise capable students to drop out, according to two researchers from the City University of New York who reviewed 13,000 students’ records. My Reuters column this week, “For students who transfer, lost credits can doom college hopes,” has details about their study.
Community college students are more likely to be first generation, which means they can’t turn to their parents for advice about navigating the college transfer process. They’re trying to figure this out on their own, often without much help from the schools.
Some states have tried to ease the way by creating pathways between community college and their public four-year institutions. These pathways guarantee admission and credit if the students take recommended courses and maintain a minimum grade point average.
But students have to know such pathways exist and how to follow them. In states where these pathways haven’t been created, students must try to determine which courses are most likely to transfer and which aren’t.
To do that, kids need help. College consultant Todd Weaver recommends that community college students make a point of getting to know their academic adviser. The advisors’ caseloads may be huge–hundreds of students–but seeing them once every four to six weeks can help create the kind of relationship these students need to get specific advice on navigating this complicated process, Weaver said.
At the macro level, the researchers believe more needs to be done to smooth the transfer process. Most new jobs in the 21st century will require a four-year degree, and a more educated population is necessary if we want to compete in the global economy and have a viable middle class.
Given what’s at stake, students need all the help they can get.