Community College Research Initiatives

Transfer is critically important to U.S. higher education. Rising tuition costs, changes in the labor market, and other factors contribute to the transfer function being an increasingly important route through higher education for underserved students, including students of color and low-income and first-generation students. Using an equity lens, CCRI conducts research to understand transfer policies and practices relative to student experiences, perceptions, and outcomes. Two major research initiatives generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are reported on our website: Higher-Performing Transfer Partnerships (HPTP) and Credit When It’s Due (CWID).

Transfer Partnerships

The High-Performing Partnerships Study (HPTP) focuses on how higher performing transfer collaborations between two- and four-year colleges and universities (which may identify as partnerships) work on the ground. By higher performing, we refer to relationships between two- and four-year institutions that enroll higher proportions of historically underserved students who are achieving higher rates of success in baccalaureate retention and completion than other institutions in the study. Our mixed methods studies in states across the country examine ways in which two- and four-year institutions influence student success, and we disseminate our findings broadly in the academic, policy, and practical literature.

Learn more about the findings of our research in the data notes below.


Yeh, T.L. and Wetzstein, L. (2020). A Continuum of Transfer Partnerships: Toward Intentional Collaborations to Improve Transfer Outcomes. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2020(192), 21-35. DOI:10.1002/cc.20420

Bragg, D. D., Yeh, T. L., Wetzstein, L., & Meza, E. A. (Eds.). (2020). Transfer Partnerships for Improved Equity and Outcomes. New Directions for Community Colleges. 2020(192), 5-9. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. DOI: 10.1002/cc.20418

Data Notes

Data Note 11: Transfer partnerships – Lessons to improve student success during and after COVID-19

May 2020
This brief synthesizes themes from a larger body of research on transfer partnerships that focus on improving transfer student outcomes that are relevant to students during and in the aftermath of this pandemic.

Data Note 10: Identifying Effective and Equitable Institutions for Transfer Students: Exploring the Contribution of the Pair in Multilevel Models

February 2019
In Data Note 10, using multilevel modeling, we examine how two- and four-year institutions working in relationship with each other reveal outcomes for African American and Latinx students within the transfer process.

Data Note 9: Transfer Partnerships: The Importance of a Culture of Collaboration

January 2019
In Data Note 9, we more fully elucidate a construct described by an interviewee as a “culture of collaboration,” which we found in partnerships that demonstrated the highest level of collaboration.

Data Note 8: The Dynamic Nature of Transfer Partnerships: Catalysts and Barriers to Collaboration

January 2019
This Data Note draws upon qualitative findings to explore many of the factors and conditions that can impact the creation and sustainability of transfer partnerships.

Data Note 7: Exploring characteristics of students who demonstrate multi-institutional attendance patterns (MIAP) in two states

December 2018
Data Note 7 extends the research of Data Note 3 and uses MIAP as a unifying descriptor to capture transfer patterns other than the traditional vertical transfer pattern from community college to university.

Data Note 6: Recognizing Variation: A Typology of Transfer Partnerships

December 2018
This Data Note draws upon the study’s qualitative findings to describe the variety of transfer partnerships that exist and examines them through the lens of an organizational model of collaboration.

Data Note 5: State Policy and Its Impact on Collaboration to Promote Transfer in Minnesota

August 2018
In this Data Note, we present a case in which state-level higher education policy has evolved over time to increasingly encourage colleges and universities to work together to improve transfer outcomes.

Data Note 4: High-Performing Transfer Partnerships and Promising Practices

June 2018
Data Note 4 analyzes qualitative data from institutional pairs which are shifting from seeing themselves as operating singularly and separately in how they serve students and summarizing promising practices that support and maintain partnerships.

Data Note 3: Initial Research on Multi-Institutional Attendance Patterns and Racial Equity

March 2018
Data Note 3 finds that students who follow multi-institutional attendance patterns (i.e. “swirlers”) are more likely to be African American and students who both receive Pell grants and who have enrolled in remedial coursework are less likely to follow MIAP.

Data Note 2: Including Racial Equity as an Outcome Measure in Transfer Research

February 2018
Data Note 2 finds that high-performing transfer partnerships were almost exclusively pairs with high percentages of White students, none of the institutional pairs revealed equitable outcomes for transfer students of color compared to White transfer students.

Data Note 1: Introduction to the High-Performing Transfer Partnerships Study

January 2018
This document is the first in a series of Data Notes that share results from our High-Performing Transfer Partnerships study. It explains the research rationale and provides a brief overview of existing literature on transfer partnerships.


Credit When It’s Due

Credit When It’s Due (CWID) is a multi-foundation funded, multi-state initiative designed to facilitate the implementation of reverse transfer policies and processes that benefit college students who have transferred from the community college to the bachelor’s level and have not secured an associate’s degree at the time of transfer. The initiative is designed to encourage partnerships between community colleges and universities to significantly expand programs that award associate degrees to transfer students when students complete requirements for the associate degree while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. CCRI is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to research this initiative.

More information about CWID can be found below.

CWID Data Notes

Data Note 11: Reverse Credit Transfer and the Associate’s Degree Advantage

November 2017
Data Note 11 uses data from three states to suggest students who receive a reverse credit transfer associate’s degree have higher retention and bachelor’s degree completion rates than similarly eligible students who did not receive this degree.

Data Note 10: The Correlates of Credit Loss

September 2017
September 17, 2017 issue of The SOURCE by Matt Giani: CWID Data Note 10: The Correlates of Credit Loss, reports results of CWID data analysis that concludes the “loss of credits during transfer remains a significant issue.”

Data Note 9: Reverse Credit Transfer: Increasing State Associate’s Degree Attainment

April 2017
Data Note 9 shows 15,860 associate’s degrees conferred by 15 states after 3 years involvement in CWID. The number of associate’s degrees varied across states, with the most degrees conferred by Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.

Data Note 8: Degree Types Awarded Via Reverse Credit Transfer

April 2017
Using data from 7 states, Data Note 8 shows 95% of associate’s degrees conferred via reverse credit transfer are transfer degrees, mostly Associate of Arts (AA). Applied and other types of associate’s degrees are much less prominent.

Data Note 7: Transfer Research Questions that Matter: 2016 Transfer Scholar Meeting Recommendations

April 2016
Data Note 7 presents recommendations for future transfer research that emerged from a meeting of 18 transfer research scholars at the AERA 2016 meeting.

Data Note 6: Why Don’t Potentially Eligible Reverse Transfer Students Receive the Degree? Exploring the Outcomes of Reverse Transfer Degree Audits

March 2016
Data Note 6 analyzes factors influencing student eligibility for reverse credit transfer degrees in Minnesota, revealing that missing course requirements are a leading factor. Appropriately designed course substitutions and waivers can expand eligibility.

Data Note 5: The Influence of Reverse Transfer Eligibility Requirements

March 2016
Data Note 5 analyzes how the residency credit requirement and cumulative credits may influence student eligibility for reverse credit transfer. Results from Colorado suggest a decrease in cumulative credit requirements increases the number of eligible students.

Data Note 4: Increasing State Associate’s Degree Attainment: The Potential of Reverse Transfer

October 2015
Data Note 4 examines the varying number of students who earned an associate’s degrees from reverse credit transfer in 12 CWID states over the first 2-years of implementation. Policies and practices that may facilitate impact are discussed.

Data Note 3: Does the Associate’s Degree Matter? Evidence from Hawaii and Ohio

May 2015
Data Note 3 analyzes bachelor’s completion for transfer students with and without associate’s degrees in two states, revealing higher baccalaureate completion for students having the associate’s degree than students without. Bachelor’s completion varies by degree type.

Data Note 2: Reverse Transfer: The National Landscape

March 2015
Data Note 2 is a policy scan on state reverse transfer legislation showing 13 states have passed or have pending legislations; 36 states have at least one reverse transfer program between 2-year and 4-year institutions.

Data Note 1: Cumulative College Credits and Reverse Transfer Eligibility Policies

February 2015
Data Note 1 analyzes two approaches to identifying students potentially eligible for reverse credit transfer degrees: “credit right now” and “credit when ready”, revealing “credit when ready” allows more students to access reverse transfer degrees.

Articles, Reports, and Briefs

The Correlates of Credit Loss

In this article, researchers explore what pre-transfer characteristics may impact the magnitude of credit loss students experience.

Modeling the Effect of the Reverse Transfer Associate’s Degree

This Review of Higher Education article examines whether receiving an associate’s degree via reverse credit transfer impacts retention and bachelor’s degree attainment in two states: Minnesota and Hawaii.

Reverse Credit Transfer and the Value of Associate’s Degree

This study examines how transfer students perceive the value of an associate’s degree in the context of reverse transfer.

Reverse Credit Transfer Guiding Principles

Drawing on data gathered from 15 CWID states, this paper presents eight guiding principles to advance the implementation of reverse credit transfer by state systems.

The Implementation and Outcomes of Credit When It’s Due (CWID) in 15 States

June 2017
This report presents results of research on reverse credit transfer policies in 15 CWID states, providing state-by-state descriptions of reverse credit transfer from 2012 to 2016 when nearly 16,000 students were awarded an associate’s degrees.

The Potential of Degree Reclamation

May 2017
This brief discusses degree reclamation strategies supporting students who accumulated roughly 2 or more academic years’ worth of credit and stopped out of or transferred from a 2-year to a 4-year institution before receiving a college degree.

Reforming Transfer to Meet the Needs of “Post-Traditional” Transfer Students

June 2016
This brief situates reverse credit transfer in the larger context of state transfer and articulation agendas in 15 CWID states. Potential improvements are identified for the overall transfer function as well as reverse credit transfer.

What We’ve Learned, What We Still Need to Know: Insights from the Credit When It’s Due (CWID) Research Meeting in Salt Lake City

May 2016
This brief summarizes insights from a research meeting at the University of Utah that included representatives of 10 CWID states, including lessons about implementation of reverse credit transfer and insights into future research.

Optimizing Reverse Transfer Policies and Processes: Lessons From Twelve CWID States

January 2015
An in-depth look at the five dimensions of optimizing reverse credit transfer to maximize student eligibility without overextending resources.

Credit When It’s Due: Results From the Baseline Study

October 2013
This early baseline study for CWID uses cross-sectional data from one cohort of potential transfer students who may be eligible to receive associate’s degrees to inform reverse credit transfer policies.

State Profiles

CCRI collected data on the results of reverse transfer scale-up activities in 15 CWID-funded states.

Twelve of these states received funding initiating in 2012

Three of these states received funding initiating in 2013