There has been relatively little research on the relationship between state policy and the
effectiveness of the 2/4 transfer function. Three relevant studies are briefly described
The Road to Equality
Hungar and Lieberman (2001) were particularly interested in the effectiveness of state
baccalaureate transfer policy as a tool for educational equity. They looked at state policy
structures affecting transfer in seven states: California, Florida, Michigan, New York,
Texas, Virginia, and Washington. They found some common patterns, but little evidence
that policies were linked to the obstacles that students face in persisting through the
baccalaureate degree. They argued that student aid should be used to help remove
obstacles that hinder students from completing their degrees.
ECS Survey of State Policy Structures
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) surveyed all 50 states in order to identify
the different ways that states define policies for 2/4 transfer (Education Commission of
the States, 2001). The ECS report lists seven categories of policies:
Citing large policy gaps in many states, the report called for states to attend to the design
of comprehensive statewide policies to support transfer.
- Legislation: state law articulates the 2/4 transfer mission (30 states).
- Cooperative agreements: statewide frameworks or networks support voluntary
cooperation between institutions (40 states).
- Transfer data reporting: the state collects some type of data on 2/4 transfer
patterns (33 states).
- Students are given incentives and rewards for transfer, such as financial aid or
guaranteed admission (18 states).
- Statewide articulation guides describe the requirements for course and
institutional articulation between two-year and four-year institutions (26
- Statewide common core curricula (23 states).
- Common course numbering systems (8 states).
State Structures and Degree Production
Gary Orfield and Faith Paul (1992), in a study commissioned by The Ford Foundation,
examined the relation between state structures for higher education and college
completion. Drawing from national data and data from five states (California, Florida,
Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin), Orfield and Paul examined the relationship between the
rate of baccalaureate attainment and a state’s reliance on community colleges as a
primary point of access to the baccalaureate. They found that those states that rely the
least on community colleges had higher rates of bachelor’s degree attainment; states that
rely the most on community colleges had lower rates of degree attainment. This pattern
held for all students, and it was particularly pronounced for minority students in urban
community colleges. To increase bachelor’s degree attainment, Orfield and Paul
concluded, it would be necessary to increase the proportion of students who begin at
four-year colleges or universities.
This study has been quite controversial, because it challenges ideas about the
effectiveness of the dual mission of the community colleges and the structural capacity of
these colleges to invest the resources to provide not just access but equity in achievement.
Orfield and Paul’s method for calculating transfer rates produced low rates, because their
measure juxtaposed total two-year college enrollments with baccalaureate degree
recipients. Despite the study’s vulnerability to methodological critique, the basic findings
about minority student retention and graduation from community colleges match both
McCormick’s and Adelman’s findings.