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A recent report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows the growing role of community colleges in promoting degree achievement.

According to the report, published Aug. 6, more than 60 percent of the students who transferred from two-year schools during the 2005-06 academic year obtained degrees at four-year institutions. The report was based on data gathered from more than 3,500 participating colleges and universities and included 98 percent of students attending public and private nonprofit postsecondary schools nationally.

Highlighted within the report was the clearinghouse’s finding that students who completed their associate degree or certificate at a community college were more likely to attain a baccalaureate (72 percent) than those who did not complete a community college program (56 percent).

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia officials said in-state data shows a similar trend. Students who complete 31 credits or more at a community college typically do better after transferring than those students who do not.

Among the data collected by SCHEV is how many students transfer and their success rate after transferring.

“[The data] goes to the colleges that both prepare transfers and receive transfers so that they can better prepare for their students,” said SCHEV’s Tod Massa, director of policy research and data warehousing. The number of students transferring from a two-year to a four-year higher education institute has grown steadily during the last five years. About 8,000 students transferred during the 2004-05 school year compared to nearly 11,000 in 2011-12.

“I think the cost issue is one [cause for the increase], but this has been going on for a while,” Massa said. “We began noticing an increase in 2002 within traditional [college age] students.”

At Northern Virginia Community College, the largest community college in the state and second largest in the nation, administrators said the increase in transfers is aided by programs geared toward students planning to make the higher-ed jump.

“The economic reality made it difficult for many parents to send their children to four-year institutions. … We’ve received a lot of anecdotal information from parents saying they are having difficulty paying [for university], especially if there are two kids. They have to choose,” said George Gabriel, vice president of institutional research, planning and assessment. Programs like the Virginia Community College System’s Pathways to the Baccalaureate Program (founded in 2005) and the Guaranteed Admission Agreement are accelerating growth of transfers, Gabriel said.

Similarly, the General Assembly signed into law in 2007 a Two-Year College Transfer Grant Program, a school-funding grant program for community college students transferring to four-year universities in state.

“If you fit the financial criteria, you have a good grade-point average and you have your associate’s, you can get $1,000 a year for up to three years,” said SCHEV spokeswoman Kirsten Nelson.

Students transferring for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and nursing careers can receive an additional $1,000 each year.

To support the growing number of transfers it sees, Northern Virginia Community College also is looking toward creating a new two-to-four or three-to-one program, which aims to increase the guaranteed admission agreements with in-state universities. Most NVCC students who transfer do so at George Mason University.

“You come to [Northern Virginia Community College] for two years and do the requirements and then you transfer to an institution that we have guaranteed admission with,” Gabriel said. “This is the changing dynamic of the four-year degree.”