Diving Into the Pool: An Analysis of Texas Community College Students’ Transfer Institution Choice Sets
by Huriya Jabbar, Eliza Epstein, Wesley Edwards & Joanna D. Sánchez - 2019
Background/Context: Community colleges are drawing renewed attention from policy makers and advocates seeking to increase college attendance and completion. Nearly half of all students awarded a bachelor’s degree attended a community college. However, we know little about how community college students decide where and how to pursue postsecondary education, or how they select a four-year institution—choices that have significant implications for student outcomes.
Focus of Study: This study examines transfer-intending community college students’ choice sets, or the list of institutions they are selecting from. Specifically, we ask: What kinds of colleges and universities are in transfer-intending students’ choice sets, and how are these choice sets shaped by individual and structural barriers?
Setting: The research took place in two community college systems in Central Texas.
Research Design: Drawing on data from 95 interviews with transfer-intending community college students in Texas—the majority of whom are first-generation college-goers, low-income, or students of color—we examine their choice sets, the institutions to which they considered transferring.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Our findings suggest significant heterogeneity among our sample of community college students seeking transfer to four-year institutions. We find that geography, financial concerns, and quality of institution all play a role in student considerations—though these mechanisms operate differently for groups of students. Students’ choices are bounded, but in different ways. We identify five approaches to choice-set construction among our sample that have differential implications for programs and policies that help students successfully apply and transfer to high-quality four-year institutions.
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