Ask any student who transferred from one college or university to another if the process was easy and you’re likely to hear an adamant “NO!” But just because transferring has been a complicated and difficult-to-navigate process in the past doesn’t mean it can’t get better. We can make the transfer process an easier and more seamless experience for students.


Many students experience “credit-loss” when transferring. In this case, a student’s credits typically count as electives instead of counting as a general education requirement or as a course within their planned major area of study.  In fact, according to the National Center for Education Studies (NCES), students lose an average of 13 units or 43% of their credits, which adds up to a staggering 186,000 years of college credit loss by the nation’s 342,860 transfer students*. But a study by Monaghan & Attewell in 2014 concluded that when 50% or more of a student’s credits successfully transfer into general education requirements or their major, graduation rates increase two and a half times.

A new research report by The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) shows a 7.9% decline in undergraduate transfer enrollment in Spring 2021. In the community college sector, the decline was 15.2%. The pandemic and its related effects appear to worsen the situation for students who want to transfer. And as the pandemic rages on, it’s unlikely to improve any time soon.

“Fixing” transfer continues to be a complex issue.  Many factors come into play, including how colleges position transfer and what resources, such as counselors and transfer centers, are available to students. Take community college students as an example. These students comprise 50% of the transfers to 4-year colleges with 80% saying that they want to complete a bachelor’s degree. Yet, only 13% actually do so. (source)


However, there are two technology-based tools that can help simplify and improve the transfer experience.  One is an up-to-date and comprehensive transfer database of articulations.  To be of real service to students, transfer articulation data needs to be searchable in ways that students can use effectively.  Students need to be able to see whether – and how – a course will transfer to the institution that they wish to attend.  Searching by specific general education requirements and by courses in their target major are two ways that students can avoid credit loss. The California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative (cvc.edu) and Maryland’s new ARTSYS are two examples of such systems that give students a powerful tool to find courses and ensure that the courses they take will transfer appropriately.

The other tool allows students to map their pathway through their education.  By mapping agreed-upon pathways (e.g., California’s Associate Degree for Transfer for community college students to transfer to the California State University system) and providing students with an individual dashboard for scheduling courses and tracking their progress towards a credential or degree, students can stay on track to transfer successfully.  Additional tools such as a mechanism to compare a student’s completed coursework to the requirements for transfer provide an easy, ongoing way for students to stay on top of their progress.

Quottly provides the tools institutions need to simplify the transfer process and help students find the courses they need to successfully complete their degree or program.

The process to help students prepare for and eventually transfer can be a more student-centered and productive experience for both the student and the institution.  If we can do that, students will not only save valuable time and money, but they will also be more likely to graduate.  And as we all know, graduating with a college degree brings many added benefits such as increased earning potential, greater job satisfaction, and even better health.

* National Student Clearinghouse yearly estimate – Published in the Hechinger Report, Nov. 22, 2016

About the Author

Jay Field

Senior Vice President of Institutional Partnerships at Quottly