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Survey Reveals Pandemic Impacts on California CC Students' Transfer Plans

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A new report from the RP Group outlines the near-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the transfer experiences of California Community College students. The research- and education-focused nonprofit surveyed 7,894 students attending California Community Colleges to better understand the barriers they face along their transfer journeys.

California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the United States, serving more than 1.8 million students at 116 colleges. Each year on average, 50,000 transfer-eligible students complete all or most of their transfer requirements but fail to continue on to a four-year university, the RP Group noted in a press release. Without question, COVID has made those transfer journeys more difficult.

Among the survey findings:

  • 40% of respondents said the pandemic has impacted their transfer plans. Some of the reasons they cited include putting their plans on hold until things are back to normal; not wanting to pay university tuition for an online experience; changing their education path altogether; or deciding that transferring is no longer for them.
  • 40% of students found it harder to access counselors and advisers during the pandemic, and 33% had trouble accessing transfer center staff, both at their own community college and their prospective universities. Students also cited fears that they "had not actually learned course material and would be unprepared for university-level work — especially in hands-on disciplines — due to relaxed course expectations," the report added.
  • While the California Community Colleges, California State University and University of California systems have made policy and practice adjustments to mitigate pandemic impacts on transfer students, 68% of survey respondents were unaware of those changes at their college and 75% were unaware of changes made by their prospective universities.
  • The survey examined four key factors impacting students' transfer capacity — university affordability, school-life balance, pathway navigation, and support network — all of which have become increasingly challenging for the upcoming year compared to pre-pandemic times, according to survey respondents. For example, 50% of students said university affordability will be very challenging in the coming year, compared to 33% before the pandemic. And 43% of students considered the school-life balance very challenging, compared to 25% pre-pandemic.

"Given these findings, community colleges and universities must be more proactive in reaching out to students who are close to transfer," said Darla M. Cooper, executive director of the RP Group, in a statement. "Not only do students need to know about policy or process changes that could benefit them, but they also need to be informed as to how they can pay for the university and be assured they will be supported in their efforts to balance family, work and school after they transfer."

The full report, "Students Speak: Understanding the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Their Transfer Journeys," is available on the RP Group site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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