Building Pathways to Transfer: Community Colleges That Break the Chain of Failure for Students of Color. Policy BriefReport as inadecuate

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This study followed all freshman community college students in California who had demonstrated the intent to transfer from 1996, 1997, and 1998. Outcomes were assessed for each of the three entering cohorts after six years (2002-2004) and students were linked with their high schools of origin and the 4-year colleges to which they transferred. The researchers divided high schools into five categories based on their API (California Academic Performance Index) scores, the proportion of students whose parents had a college degree and their level of minority segregation. The lowest quintile high schools had low API scores, few parents with BA degrees, and high minority segregation; the highest quintile high schools had the inverse. Clearly, the quality of the high school resources was highly related to the chances of transferring to a 4-year college. And the likelihood of attending a high or low "quality" high school was strongly related to race and ethnicity. One third of Latinos attended high schools in the low resource category, as did 1 in 5 Black students. By contrast, only 1 in 25 Whites and 1 in 10 Asians went to such schools. At the other end of the scale, 1 in 7 Whites went to high resource high schools, as did 1 in 10 Asians. Only 3 in 100 Latinos and Blacks had the benefit of attending a high resource high school. Some students, however, diverted from the usual pattern of low performing high school to low performing community college and attended a higher transfer college. Moreover, some community colleges demonstrated significantly greater success with students of color from low performing high schools than other community colleges. In this study, the researchers set out to ask: (1) What causes some students to choose higher transfer community colleges than the college most students from their high school attend? (2) What do these higher transfer colleges do to effect better outcomes for students of color coming from these high need/low-performing high schools? Five colleges were identified as disproportionately transferring students of color from low performing/high needs high schools. It was to note that three colleges were disproportionately successful with Latino students, and two colleges with African American students, but none was equally successful with both groups. Overall, there were more differences than similarities among campuses with respect to strategies for supporting the transfer function. However, there were five findings that stand out: (1) The colleges that showed disproportionate success in transferring African Americans and Latinos from low performing/high need high schools were not necessarily those with strong reputations for transfer; (2) Community college outreach was in many cases the reason that students came to the college in the first place, and connected with appropriate services once there; (3) Strong transfer counseling is the sine quo non of community college transfer, yet it is wholly inadequate and this is not always just because of resource limitations; (4) Every campus immediately pointed to its special support programs for underrepresented students as key to increasing its transfer rate for these students; and (5) Developmental education is the elephant in the living room for transfer of minority students from low performing/high need high schools. (Contains 4 footnotes.) [For the full report, "Building Pathways to Transfer: Community Colleges That Break the Chain of Failure for Students of Color," see ED529493.]

Descriptors: Community Colleges, Minority Group Students, College Freshmen, College Transfer Students, School Effectiveness, High Schools, Disadvantaged Schools, Case Studies, Educational Counseling, Outreach Programs, Remedial Instruction, Student Personnel Services, African American Students, Hispanic American Students

Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles. 8370 Math Sciences, P.O. Box 951521, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521. Tel: 310-267-5562; Fax: 310-206-6293; e-mail: crp[at]; Web site:

Author: Civil Rights Project - Proyecto Derechos Civiles


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