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Executive Summary
The Importance of 2/4 Transfer
The Different Dimensions of Transfer
The Accountability Problem and Transfer “Rates”
Research on State Policy and Transfer
Six-State Focus
    New Mexico
    New York
    North Carolina
Lessons Learned about State Transfer Policy
Conclusions and Recommendations
State Resources
About the Author
The Institute for Higher Education Policy
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

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Page 14 of 21


Texas is primarily a public state for higher education: about 90% of all college students attend public institutions. It is also the largest low-performing state (based on the completion criteria in Measuring Up 2000) to have at least 25% of its college students attending public community colleges. Public community colleges account for over half of total undergraduate enrollment in the state; the public universities account for around 38%; private four-year institutions, about 10% (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2000). Public four-year tuition averages $2,741 annually, and community college tuition averages $910.


Texas has an institutional governing structure: there are 61 separate governing boards— 6 boards for the public four-year system, 50 locally elected boards for the public community college districts, 1 board overseeing the 8 technical colleges, and 4 single- institution boards. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is responsible for overall state postsecondary planning, data collection, and policy analysis; it also has funding advisory responsibilities to the governor and the legislature. The oldest need- based grant program is the $62 million (in 2000) Tuition Equalization Grant program, which is restricted to students in independent colleges and universities. An ambitious new need- and merit-based grant program, the TEXAS (Toward Excellence, Access and Success) program, provides needy students who complete the high school college completion curriculum with awards equal to their tuition and fees. Now in its third year, the TEXAS program has an annual appropriation of $120 million. A portion of the program (TEXAS-II) is targeted to community college students who have not completed the high school curriculum; this portion of the program is funded at $5 million.

Enrollment Planning

Demand for higher education is increasing at an annual rate of around 1.5%, with slightly higher growth in the community colleges and technical institutions. The state has also placed priorities on raising the college-going rate to the national average and on eliminating disparities in attendance between racial groups. One goal of Texas’ new higher education plan (Closing the Gaps) is to increase college enrollments by 500,000 by 2015. A second goal is to increase the total number of certificates and associate and baccalaureate degrees by 50% (from 95,000 awarded in 2000 to 163,000 in 2015). The state has no firm enrollment targets for the different institutions, but progress toward these goals will inevitably increase the enrollment demand on community colleges. There has been considerable concern about Texas’ low retention and baccalaureate achievement rates, and the state has been analyzing student flow patterns within public higher education for many years.

Transfer has long been emphasized as one of the missions of the Texas community colleges, although the emphasis on transfer relative to other functions differs among the colleges, depending on local needs and economic conditions. The state has hesitated to make baccalaureate transfer and degree attainment a specific goal for community college students, because policymakers believe that many students do not want or need to obtain a degree. Some of Texas’ four-year institutions were once upper-division campuses, designed to build on a 2+2 pattern with the local community college.

Academic Policies Affecting Transfer

For many years, Texas colleges were encouraged to develop voluntary articulation agreements between the two- and four-year institutions. In 1987, however, the state legislature and the Coordinating Board, hoping to strengthen articulation and transfer, mandated the development of a statewide core curriculum. Legislation in 1997 expanded that concept, and Texas now has a transfer general education core curriculum that allows individual institutions some flexibility in designating core courses. The Coordinating Board reviews and approves each institution’s core curriculum every five years. If a student completes an approved core curriculum, the receiving institution must accept those courses as a substitute for its own core requirements. Receiving institutions and specific majors may require some additional courses beyond the minimum core.

Under statutory directive, the Coordinating Board has also developed “field of study” curricula to facilitate transfer of courses within high-demand disciplines; such agreements are now in place for 38 disciplines and majors. There are no statewide requirements or policies for joint admission or guaranteed transfer, but these are encouraged, and several institutions have created such policies. Many institutions—including every public college and university as well as many private colleges—have also adopted the common course numbering system for lower-division courses. Institutions that choose not to use the common course numbers are required to publish a “cross-walk” between the common numbering system and their own. Most four-year institutions have electronic degree-audit systems, and the state is considering developing a statewide electronic degree-audit system, which would allow students to see how courses would transfer to different institutions.

There is no uniform high school graduation requirement in Texas, although the legislature has specified that the college completion curriculum will be the “default” curriculum for all public schools by 2005. After public institutions were prohibited from using affirmative action admissions policies, the state legislature enacted a law that requires public universities to admit the top 10% of all high school graduates. A range of other admissions criteria are applied to students not in the top 10%, with individual institutions setting these requirements.

Students entering college with low SAT or ACT scores or without these scores are required to take the TASP (Texas Academic Skills Program) examination and may not enroll in more than nine semester credit hours before taking the test. Students who do not pass the TASP are placed in remedial and developmental courses, either at a four-year institution or a community college. Some four-year institutions contract with their local community colleges to provide remedial instruction.

Data Collection and Accountability

Texas has a good statewide information system and data analysis capacity. Detailed reports track student retention, progress, and graduation for all public institutions as well as all types of transfer activity between all types of schools. Texas also monitors the transfer and subsequent performance of first-time freshmen who enroll for 12 or more semester credit hours before transferring to a four-year institution. The state does not calculate a statewide transfer rate. About 29% of first-time community college students transfer to or graduate from a public four-year institution after six years. Of the students who took 12 semester credit hours or more, 11% had obtained the baccalaureate degree after six years, and another 18% had transferred to a four-year institution but had not yet completed the baccalaureate degree.

In 2001 Texas completed a major study of the effectiveness of its statewide transfer policies. The study was conducted by a statewide task force that reviewed thousands of student transcripts to learn about course-taking and transfer patterns. The study found no significant difference in the quality of student performance at the receiving institutions (as measured by grade-point averages) between native students and those who transferred after completing at least 30 semester credit hours. The majority of community college credits were accepted by the receiving four-year institutions: 80% of total semester credit hours were accepted for transfer, of which 70% were applied to the baccalaureate degree major. Transfer credit was denied primarily for low grades and for remedial and developmental courses. The task force’s recommendations for strengthening transfer included improvements in reporting student performance information from receiving to sending institutions; a feasibility study for a statewide electronic degree-audit system, similar to the one in Florida; and study of “best practices” in other states.


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© 2002 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
and the Institute for Higher Education Policy

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