The transfer function of community colleges may be one of the most important functions due to the fact that community colleges have been and continue to be significant upward transition points into four-year institutions. In the top three major higher education institutions, community colleges are on the bottom, followed by Cal States and then Universities at the top. While, community colleges have the potential to be important institutions for education, they are faced with many challenges.
The transfer mission of community colleges is threatened by many factors including increase in enrollment, influx of low socioeconomic and non-white student populations, and even declines in state funding. To insure the integrity of the community college and address these challenges, the goal of transfer must be strengthened.
Community colleges are the least costly for students, therefore the enrollment rate increases but transfer rates seem to decrease. Low socioeconomic and non-white students are known as an “emerging majority” and are attracted to community colleges because of the low cost, but have difficulty transferring out. Future growth of underrepresented students in community colleges is crucial and can definitely foster diversity in higher education. For this reason, these students need to be targeted so that they do transfer. Although a community college can be seen as money saving, a rise in the cost of higher education coupled with loan-based financial aid rather than grants may put low socioeconomic students at a disadvantage when transferring to a four-year institution because it may decrease their chances of transferring. Family responsibilities and working demands pose further threats. These are all issues that transfer students must juggle; therefore, community colleges must be able to address demographic changes and serve the “emerging majority” towards transfer.
Other factors that challenge transfer rates include articulation agreement policies and funding. For example, articulation agreements between institutions have become a multifaceted and complex process. It is important for students to be informed about what courses are eligible for transfer to prevent conflict. Sometimes, students enroll in classes only to find out that the university they are transferring to does not accept the class or requires more. Additionally, two-year colleges also receive limited funding despite the fact that majority of the students are enrolled in such institutions. Financial aid opportunities must be stressed to potential transfers as they move on to more expensive levels of higher education. All of the mentioned factors influence the students who are eligible to transfer. If the institution cannot accommodate and adapt to the societal and economic changes, the promising mobility within the education system is hindered.