Nearly 200,000 fewer transfer students enrolled in college last year, report finds

Higher Ed Dive

Natalie Schwartz
August 31, 2021
Dive Brief: 
  • Colleges and universities lost about 191,500 transfer students in the 2020-21 academic year — representing a loss almost three times greater than the previous year’s decline of 69,300 students, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
  • Every type of transfer saw declines, but some held up better than most, according to the report. Upward transfers —   students moving from two-year schools to four-year colleges —  were relatively stable, declining only about 1.3%.
  • Meanwhile, lateral transfers, or those between the same level of institutions, fell 11.9%.  And reverse transfers, which are those from four-year colleges to two-year schools, slid 16.2%.
Dive Insight: 
The Clearinghouse report paints a bleak picture for student mobility in the last academic year, with transfer enrollment falling 8.4% from the year before. That’s more than double the decline of nontransfer enrollment, which slid 3.7%.
Disparities were stark. Enrollment of Black transfer students fell the most out of the racial and ethnic categories the Clearinghouse tracks, dropping by 12.9%. White students and Latinx students also saw sharp declines, falling 9.1% and 8.4%, respectively.
Transfer enrollment of men fell 12.1%, more than double the rate of decline for women, whose transfer enrollment shrank 5.8%.