Community College Research Initiatives

February 27, 2018

HPTP Data Note 2: Racial Equity as and Transfer Outcome Measure

Research using large-scale national datasets reveals the pervasiveness of the problem of low transfer rates but offers limited information about the underlying reasons for why transfer processes fail, especially for students of color. The tendency to treat transfer and transfer research as race-neutral endeavors masks the extent of inequity in the transfer process. As a result, it is difficult to see how systems and institutions may be adversely impacting the outcomes of minoritized students. This Data Note describes the state of current research measuring equity in transfer and describes our methodology for identifying variation in the performance of transfer partners, according to equity-focused measures.


Our research seeks to address what Crisp and Nunez (2014) have called the “racial transfer gap” in the transfer literature by adding to the extant research that examines how transfer reforms address racial equity (e.g., Dowd & Bensimon, 2015). This study includes multiple states in a mixed-methods design to understand how student transfer happens between two- and four-year institutions. The study begins by identifying institutional pairs where transfer students, and particularly transfer students of color, demonstrate the highest transfer outcomes in the state. This approach works to identify dimensions of the transfer performance of pairs of institutions relative to other pairs, but it does not necessarily indicate that the transfer student outcomes meet an exemplary standard. To this point, using our methodology to study transfer, we have found few pairs of institutions where students of color as a group are retained or graduated at rates equal to the White student group. This concerning result contributes to our desire to further test and refine our methodology.

Read the full Data Note for our current analytical approach and recommendations for future research to fill these gaps.

Download Data Note 2

This Data Note is part of CCRI’s High-Performing Partnerships Study (HPTP) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study focuses on how higher performing transfer collaborations between two and four-year colleges and universities work on the ground. Researchers identified high-performing partnership pairs from a dataset collected for the national initiative on reverse credit transfer called Credit When It’s Due (CWID). Read the full series of Data Notes and more about the project here