College Guide


June 10, 2011 2:36 PM Transfer from Community Colleges Don’t Work so Well

By Daniel Luzer

Part of the lure of community colleges for middle class parents is that such colleges offer the potential for students to spend about two years of their collegiate education earning credits on the cheap. That’s also part of the benefit of the schools for poor students. Community college can serve as an entry point to college; after two years at the local community college, people can transfer to a four-year institution and come out with a bachelor’s degree.

Well one can transfer, but it’s pretty difficult.

According to a to new article by Joanne Jacobs at the Hechinger Report:

It’s too tough to transfer credits when students move from community college to four-year institutions, concluded panelists at a Center for American Progress discussion, reports Inside Higher Ed. The average transfer students earns 140 credits but is able to use only 120….
While 14 states set a “general education common core curriculum” that is easily transferable from one institution to another, only seven states have a “common course numbering system.” Twenty-two states have “statewide program major articulations” that allow seamless transfers, 20 states have “block credit transfer” and 30 states have “transfer associate degrees,” with guaranteed acceptance as a junior at a four-year institution.

Only 10 percent of community college students actually go on to ever earn a bachelor’s degree.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • alix on June 11, 2011 7:43 AM:

    I'm confused. If a credit is an hour of class a week, that is, 15 credits a semester (which is the way every college I've ever gone to or taught for does it-- 6--), most require 126 or 130 credits to graduate. (About 8 semesters.)

    No one gets 140 credits in two years at community college.

    And as someone who teaches at community college, I worry about the low grad rate, but do understand that many get certificates (like for nurse's aid training) that are 1 and 2 years, and don't require graduation from a four-year school. And most students are financially not too stable, and will drop out if they get a job. Not everyone needs to have a college degree.

    But anyway, states need to pass a law that two years of their community college is accepted in toto by its four-year colleges. Several states have that. But students do have to be disciplined and take the courses that transfer.

    BTW, I transferred from an Ivy League school to another school my junior year, and only about 2/3rds of my credits transferred, because every school has its own requirements. So what might be "a humanities course" in one college might not fit the other college's requirements. It's frustrating, but it's not just community colleges.

  • Anonymous on June 11, 2011 4:26 PM:

    They meant 140 hours total to graduate or 20 wasted hours . Over a full semester wasted. That's because universities have changed their requirements to prevent students from taking "too many" community college courses and losing their fees to community colleges