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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