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The Impact of Full Time Enrollment in the First Semester on Community College Transfer Rates: New Evidence from Texas With Pre-College Determinants


by Toby J. Park — 2015

Background/Context: Recent developments in state-level policy have begun to require, incentivize, and/or encourage students at community colleges to enroll full time in an effort to increase the likelihood that students will persist and transfer to four-year institution where they will be able to complete their bachelor’s degree. Often, these policies are predicated on the idea that full-time status is associated with greater engagement on behalf of the student, a concept that has been widely studied in higher education as it relates to student persistence and degree attainment.

Purpose: Building upon theory and observational studies, I seek to empirically test whether enrolling full time at a community college has a discernible effect on transferring to a four-year university.

Research Design: I follow four cohorts of first-time traditionally aged college students who graduated from a public high school in Texas in the years 2000–2003 and employ a propensity score matching procedure designed to reduce sample selection bias.

Findings: I find that enrolling full time increases overall transfer rates by at least 12%. These results are robust to the inclusion of many pre-college factors as well as to a sensitivity analysis, across four separate cohorts..

Conclusions/Recommendations: This study provides evidence in support of a key policy lever for increase transfer rates already in place in a handful of states: encouraging incentivizing, or requiring full time enrollment. The key, however, will be to develop policy that results in more students enrolling full time while also maintaining the open access mission of community colleges. While requiring students to enroll full time may not be appropriate in all contexts, states should seriously consider other ways to incentivize or, at a minimum, support and encourage full-time enrollment, particularly for first-time traditionally aged students.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 117 Number 12, 2015, p. 1-34
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18153, Date Accessed: 12/11/2017 11:47:53 PM

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About the Author
  • Toby Park
    Florida State University
    E-mail Author
    TOBY J. PARK, PhD, is an assistant professor of economics of education and education policy, and an associate director of the Center for Postsecondary Success, at Florida State University. His research interests include policy related to improving enrollment and completion, particularly for community college, traditionally underrepresented, and nontraditional students. Park’s resent work has appeared in Educational Researcher, the Journal of Higher Education, and Research in Higher Education.
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