Leverage data for program improvement and student success

Who registers the New England transfer guarantee? With three semesters of student-level enrollment data on this New England Higher Education Council transfer initiative under our belt, Senior Program Manager Emily Decatur and I are now equipped to begin answering this question and many more.

The New England Transfer Guarantee is a groundbreaking initiative, fully operational in the southern New England states. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island beginning in 2021. The program allows eligible community college graduates to transfer to participating four-year institutions – guaranteed admission.

Structured to align with existing government policy, the guarantee facilitates transfer regardless of sector. Community college graduates need only their associate’s degree and a minimum GPA to gain admission to participating institutions in their state. Additionally, admitted students are guaranteed that all of their hard-earned credits will be transferred to their bachelor’s degree program and they will be eligible for institutional scholarships that will increase their savings on that bachelor’s degree. Since transparency is a core value of the program, institutions are encouraged to clearly display information about the dollar amount of institutional rewards on their collateral web pages.

Originally funded by the Teagle Foundation and the Davis Educational Foundation, this project has gained additional support from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the Balfour Foundation, who have pledged to help NEBHE extend the guarantee to the six New England states—a process it is currently in progress.

Who currently benefits from the guarantee? And, on the other hand, what groups of community college students might need additional information or resources to take advantage of this valuable opportunity?

Based on our team’s analysis of student-level data for the 470 unique students who transferred through the Guarantee between Spring 2021 and Spring 2022, here’s what we know:

  • Ensure students have an impressive track record of academic achievement. Participating colleges and universities agree to a minimum GPA requirement in the Memorandum of Understanding that they must sign before they officially begin accepting guaranteed students. Participating institutions choose from the following options: 2.0, 2.5 or 3.0. Of the 406 students for whom a community college GPA was reported, only 3% transferred with a GPA below 2.5. The average community college cumulative GPA for guaranteed students between Spring 2021 and Spring 2022 was 3.33, which is well above the highest GPA threshold that participating institutions can select.
  • Ensure that students regularly receive significant institutional scholarships. One of the main innovations of this initiative is the way it opens up the possibility of granting substantial institutional scholarships to transfer students from community colleges. As it was Previously reported, ensure that students who enrolled between Spring 2021 and Spring 2022 received, in sum, well over $4.5 million in scholarships and institutional grants ($4,566,131, to be precise). NEBHE’s inaugural warranty registration report, hyperlink here, provides additional details at the state level, not only average scholarships for full-time students, but also minimum and maximum dollar amounts for scholarships. With maximum rewards in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island amounting to approximately $34,000, $57,000, and $20,000, respectively, it seems clear to us that institutions are taking the emphasis of the guarantee very seriously. on affordability.
  • Guaranteed students tend to enroll full-time when transferring to participating institutions. Because of strong association between full-time enrollment and desirable vertical transfer outcomes, it was reassuring to see that more than three-quarters (77%) of students secured in this first reporting period were already enrolling full-time. The compilation of the first warranty registration report also revealed state-specific areas of variability on certain data points, registration status being one of them. Although the full-time enrollment rate across the program is quite high, it actually exceeds 90% in Connecticut and Rhode Island; the tri-state rate is significantly affected by the Massachusetts outlier, where 31% of all guaranteed students are enrolled part-time.
  • Guaranteed students are, in many ways, diverse. All community college students trend on the older side, and secured students analyzed in this first enrollment report a similar pattern, with a median age of 26 (with some notable variations based on full-time versus part-time enrollment status). Perhaps more interestingly given the image of particularly independent New England institutions as very white, 44% of this group of guaranteed students were identified as BIPOC in data from participating institutions submitted to the NEBHE for quarters of the spring 2021 to spring 2022.

Over the next few months, Emily and I will work to make actionable sense of these high-level descriptive statistics.

Statistics such as the cumulative community college GPA will help us as we seek to build buy-in for the program among administrators, faculty, and staff who may not be as familiar with community college transfer students. Mitigating pernicious biases regarding the academic preparation of community college graduates can go a long way toward creating campus cultures defined by what Dimpal Jain et al. could qualify “receptiveness to transference.”

The results related to the amounts of institutional scholarships will allow us to start generating documents presenting the approximate savings that students can expect by obtaining their bachelor’s degree through the guarantee rather than entering directly into a bachelor’s degree program. Since the sticker price still dominates transfer advice conversations, being able to show how much institutions give in scholarships will go a long way in communicating the savings associated with earning a bachelor’s degree through the guarantee. For an even deeper picture of affordability, Emily and I will likely need to apply for access to federal grants and loans that complement these institutional scholarships for guaranteed students.

This data analysis, and the report in which it is presented in full, marks the beginning rather than the end of our team’s work.

Sarah Kuczynski is Assistant Program Manager for Transfer Initiatives at the New England Board of Higher Education. Emily Decatur is Senior Program Manager for Transfer Initiatives at NEBHE. For more information on NEBHE’s New England Transfer Guarantee, Click here.

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