Assessing the Influence of Community College Course Selection Pathways on Transfer Student Persistence: A Model for Comparative Evaluation
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The present study examined the impact of pre-transfer characteristics with a focus on course selection decisions at the community college, demographic variables including age, ethnicity and gender, and post-transfer college academic characteristics on variables for transferability of credits and two-year persistence. The sample included 2,006 transfer students entering a large public four-year institution from two of the top feeder community colleges over a period of four years. National Student Clearinghouse records and transcript analysis were used to code the percent of community college credits accepted for credit and enrollment two years following the first semester of matriculation at the four-year university as exogenous variables. Community college records were coded into categories corresponding to three “pathways” to transfer: completion of state-mandated core coursework, attainment of an associate degree prior to transfer, and alignment of coursework with major-specific pre-requisites included in transfer planning guides prepared by the four-year institution.
A hypothesized path model developed based on the literature for community college transfer was not supported by the data. Kruskal-Wallis H test and logistic regression analyses were used to identify significant predictor variables for credit transfer and two-year persistence, including comparative analyses for the three pathways. Ethnicity and gender were not significant predictors of two-year persistence. Significant differences in persistence were found for class level and age at the time of transfer and multiple group analysis methods were used to sub-divide the sample. Results revealed that of the three pathways, only coursework alignment with transfer planning guides was a significant predictor for persistence. Other variables significant in predicting persistence included course completion ratio, transfer shock in the first semester, and transfer GPA. Findings for persistence varied across age groups and class level at matriculation.