CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A $700,000 grant awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois will fund new studies focused on helping community college transfer students earn baccalaureate degrees.
Researchers at OCCRL and the University of Utah, which will receive a sub-award under the project, will study the student- and institutional-level factors that promote or hinder transfer students’ completion of bachelor’s degrees.
Among the issues the researchers will examine are the impact of lost credits and “transfer shock,” a term that refers to the decline in grade point average that many community college students experience after matriculating to four-year institutions.
Another objective of the research will be identifying four to six community college and university partnerships that demonstrate high rates of transfer and degree completion, so these programs’ policies and practices can be shared with other institutions to improve transfer students’ success at earning baccalaureate degrees.
“This research contributes to a greater understanding of how students are affected by current transfer policies and how some higher education institutions are able to create high-performance partnerships that ensure the transfer process is working effectively,” said Debra Bragg, founding director of OCCRL.
With earlier grants from the Gates Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, OCCRL researchers are exploring the implementation of reverse transfer policies, which enable community college students to earn an associate degree using credits they accumulate after transferring to universities.
“With this new funding, we will examine long-standing issues such as transfer shock and credit loss,” said Jason Taylor, co-principal investigator on the project and a professor educational leadership and policy at the University of Utah. “We’ll continue our investigation of reverse transfer and explore innovative transfer practices. We anticipate this research will contribute to the scholarly literature and improve transfer policies and practices at the state and institutional levels.”
The award brings the foundation’s total investment in research led by OCCRL scholars to about $1 million, said Bragg, who was named an Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor at Illinois in 2013.
The research is associated with the Credit When It’s Due project, an initiative supported by the Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, USA Fund, Helios Education Foundation and the Greater Texas Foundation.
Data for the new research projects will be drawn from two extensive data sets developed through Credit When It’s Due, which comprise 250,000 transfer students across 15 states.
Sixteen states are participating in the Credit When It’s Due project, and at least 20 more states are exploring, planning or implementing reverse transfer policies, according to OCCRL.