Transfer student enrollment plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, the rate of college transfers fell by 13.5% — or more than twice the decline of non-transfer enrollment, according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Two-year institutions saw double-digit declines in both lateral (21.3%) and reverse (18%) transfer. Transfers from two-year to four-year institutions shrank by nearly 10% over two years. Declines in upward transfer enrollment have been unequally distributed, with women transferring less frequently than men during the second year of the pandemic.

Community college transfer has long been viewed as one of the most powerful — and high-potential — tools for improving outcomes for students from underserved communities. Black and Latinx students, learners from low-income families, working adults, and first-generation college students all disproportionately begin their college journeys at two-year institutions. We cannot allow the pandemic’s effects to disrupt the future for a generation of women from underrepresented backgrounds.

The challenges these learners face were only deepened, not created, by COVID-19. About 80% of community college students intend to transfer and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree, according to the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. But only one-quarter ever enrolled in a four-year program. Just 17% earned a bachelor’s degree within six years of transferring.

As a first-generation college student, I know firsthand just how difficult it can be to juggle the many competing obligations of work, family and school. To put myself through college, I delivered gift baskets, served fast food and worked at a grocery store warehouse and the campus bookstore. Rather than directing my focus and energy toward coursework and planning my future, I was having to earn enough money to pay tuition and rent.

Read the full article about community college transfers by Ruth Bauer White at Higher Education News.