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It's Not Enough to Get Through the Open Door: Inequalities by Social Background in Transfer from Community Colleges to Four-Year Colleges


by Kevin J. Dougherty & Gregory S. Kienzl — 2006

The growing policy interest in community colleges as gateways to the baccalaureate degree naturally raises the question of how equitably transfer opportunities are distributed by student background and what factors may explain background differences that might be found. We analyze two nationally representative data sets to examine how the likelihood of transfer is affected by social background, precollege academic characteristics, external demands at college entrance, and experiences during college. We find that high-SES students have significantly higher transfer rates, in part because of advantages in precollege academic preparation and educational aspirations. Older college entrants are much less likely to transfer than students entering college right out of high school, and a significant portion of this age gap is more often due to having children, lower educational aspirations, and a vocational major, and being enrolled part time. Though women and nonwhites differ from men and whites in transfer rates, these differences are not statistically significant. But there is an important caveat: blacks tend to have higher educational aspirations than whites of the same socioeconomic background. When we control for educational aspirations, thus removing this black aspirational advantage, the black-white gap in transfer rates widens considerably, becoming statistically significant in one of our samples but not the other.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 3, 2006, p. 452-487
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12332, Date Accessed: 10/20/2017 5:01:09 AM

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About the Author
  • Kevin Dougherty
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    KEVIN DOUGHERTY is associate professor of higher education and senior research associate, Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. He has published widely on the community college’s missions and history, its workforce preparation and economic development activities, educational and economic returns for community college students, and the impact of performance accountability on community colleges. He is now leading a research project on state policy affecting community college access and success for minority and low-income students, with funding from the Lumina Foundation’s Achieving the Dream initiative.
  • Gregory Kienzl
    American Institutes of Research
    GREGORY KIENZL is a research analyst with the American Institutes for Research. His research interests include estimating the economic benefits of postsecondary education for students who follow nontraditional educational pathways and examining the impact of labor markets on the educational achievement and economic outcomes of college students. His paper, “The Returns of a Community College Education: Evidence from the National Education Longitudinal Survey,” is forthcoming in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (summer 2005).
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