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Do Students Benefit From Going Backward? The Academic and Labor Market Consequences of Four- to Two-Year College Transfer (A CAPSEE Working Paper)

By: Vivian Yuen Ting Liu

Abstract

Using public higher education data from one small state and using distance to the closest two-year college as an instrumental variable, this paper examines the effects of 4–2 transfer on “struggling” students, or those who earned less than a 3.0 grade point average in the first term. Results indicate that these 4–2 transfer students are more likely than similar non-transfer students to attain two-year college credentials (including associate degrees and long- and short-term certificates); the gain is concentrated in women who tend to enroll in health-related programs.

What is more, struggling students who transfer to two-year colleges are no less likely than struggling, non-transfer students to earn a bachelor’s degree. Early employment outcomes also indicate that the labor market does not penalize 4–2 transfer behavior. Falsification tests show strong first stage results and no correlation between distance and socioeconomic indicators, which supports the use of distance as an instrumental variable for 4–2 transfer status. The findings indicate that 4–2 transfer can improve college completion for students struggling in four-year institutions.