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Key Issue
State policies must be assessed and updated to effectively support the success of students transferring from two- to four-year institutions to attain their baccalaureate degrees.

Primary Findings
  • Effective state policies are at the heart of baccalaureate success for students transferring from two-year to four-year institutions with the goal of achieving their degrees.
  • Ineffective state policies are a major contributor to the high rate of students who attempt but fail to complete the requirements to attain their degrees.
  • Two-four transfer has to be viable, because it has become the single most important means for low-income and minority students to attain their baccalaureates.
  • State policies differ more as a result of ignorance on how to achieve effective structure than from lack of willingness to support 2/4 transfer.
    Questions That Must Be Answered
  • Two-four transfer is not equally successful in all states. Why?
  • What is the probability that students entering higher education through two-year institutions will achieve a baccalaureate?
  • Who are the students most affected by 2/4 transfer policies?
  • How can states with low 2/4 transfer success improve their track records?

    State Policies On 2/4 Transfers
    Are Key To Degree Attainment

    A recent study has uncovered a vital connection between effective state policies and the success of students who transfer from two-year to four-year institutions.

    "Two-four transfer" refers to students who earn credit at a two-year institution and then enroll in a four-year institution, with the goal of achieving a four-year degree. Two-four transfer is rapidly becoming the most common route to the baccalaureate for a simple, sound reason: it costs less per student.

    It is increasingly important that 2/4 transfers work effectively, because the baccalaureate degree is becoming the entry point to the workforce.

    Nationwide, roughly 43 percent of students who begin their higher education at two-year institutions transfer at least once. Approximately half of these transfer students enroll in a baccalaureate program in a four-year institution.

    However, because of ineffective state policies, the difficulties associated with 2/4 transfers may instead be discouraging students from attaining baccalaureate degrees.


    Jane V. Wellman, senior associate with the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C., and a consultant on research and policy issues, mined a cross-section of states to study the effectiveness of 2/4 transfer policies. Her result is a blueprint for states for improving their 2/4 transfer performance, including:
  • Developing baseline information;
  • Clarifying policies and plans;
  • Setting goals and measures;
  • Investing in core resources;
  • Performing statewide audits;
  • Forging agreements;
  • Boosting low-performing institutions;
  • Using financial aid as an incentive; and
  • Reeling private institutions into the fold.


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