College Transfer Among Persisting Students

Thirteen percent of college-persisting ACT-tested students from the high school graduating class of 2012 transferred to another college for their second year of study. Students’ likelihood of transferring differs by both student characteristics and college characteristics and by whether students attended a college that matched their preferences.

Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Parent Education Level and ACT Composite Score

  • Within each parent education level, the share of students who transferred to another college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
  • Among those students with lower ACT Composite scores, a smaller percentage of first-generation college students than their peers transferred to another college.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Parent Education Level and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 15% of college-persisting ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 whose parents did not attend college transferred to another college for their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeNo CollegeSome CollegeBachelor’s DegreeGraduate Degree
1–1515%18%18%19%
16–1915%18%18%18%
20–2314%16%15%15%
24–2711%13%11%10%
28–328%8%7%6%
33–364%5%3%3%

Note: Based on 84% of college-persisting ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom parent education level is available.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Degree Plans and ACT Composite Score

  • Among those students with lower ACT Composite scores, a smaller share of students who planned to earn less than a bachelor’s degree than those with other degree plans transferred to another college. This gap in the transfer rate by degree plans reverses as students’ ACT Composite score increases.
  • Within each degree plan category, the percentage of students who transferred to another college generally decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Degree Plans and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 13% of college-persisting ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who planned to earn less than a bachelor’s degree transferred to another college for their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeLess Than Bachelor’s DegreeBachelor’s DegreeGraduate Degree
1–1513%17%17%
16–1912%18%17%
20–2313%16%15%
24–2712%12%11%
28–329%8%6%
33–36 4%3%

Note: Based on 91% of college-persisting ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom degree plans are available.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Initial College Type Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • Among students who initially attended a 4-year college (public or private), the share of students who transferred to another college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases. There is a noticeable gap in the transfer rate among lower-achieving students who initially attended a 4-year public and 4-year private college, but this gap closes as ACT Composite score increases.
  • Among students who initially attended a 2-year college, the percentage of students who transferred to another college increases with their ACT Composite score. Nearly half of all students in the ACT Composite score range of 33–36 transferred out of a 2-year college.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Initial College Type Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 15% of college-persisting ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended a 2-year college transferred to another college for their second year.

ACT Composite Score Range2-yearPublic 4-yearPrivate 4-year
1–1515%17%24%
16–1916%17%21%
20–2318%14%15%
24–2720%10%10%
28–3226%6%6%
33–3648%3%2%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Selectivity of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • Within each college selectivity category, the share of students who transferred to another college generally decreases as their ACT Composite score increases. This downward trend is not as pronounced for students who initially attended colleges that do not require test scores for admission.
  • Among students who initially attended colleges that require test scores for admission, students who attended less-selective colleges typically transferred to another college at higher rates than students who attended more-selective colleges. This gap in the transfer rate by college selectivity lessens somewhat as students’ ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Selectivity of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 15% of college-persisting ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended a college in which a test score is not required for admission transferred to another college for their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeNo Test Score RequiredLess SelectiveModerately SelectiveHighly Selective
1–1515%22%18%20%
16–1915%20%16%11%
20–2316%17%12%7%
24–2715%14%9%5%
28–3213%10%6%3%
33–3611%7%4%2%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Location of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • Among students with lower ACT Composite scores, a larger share of out-of-state students than in-state students transferred to another college. This gap in the transfer rate by the location of the college attended closes as ACT Composite score increases.
  • For both in-state and out-of-state students, the share of students who transferred to another college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Location of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 15% of college-persisting ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended an in-state college transferred to another college for their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeIn StateOut of State
1–1515%28%
16–1916%23%
20–2314%17%
24–2711%11%
28–327%7%
33–363%3%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Distance to Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • The share of students who transferred to another college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases, and this negative relationship is evident regardless of the distance to students’ colleges.
  • Among those with lower ACT Composite scores, the percentage of students who transferred to another college increases with the distance to their college. As ACT Composite score increases, this gap in the transfer rate by distance to college diminishes substantially.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by Distance to Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 12% of college-persisting ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended college within 25 miles of their home transferred to another college for their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeLess than 26 miles26–100 milesMore than 100 miles
1–1512%20%27%
16–1913%20%22%
20–2313%16%17%
24–2711%11%11%
28–328%6%6%
33–364%3%3%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Match Between Initial College Type Attended and Students’ College Type Preference

  • Among students who initially attended a 2-year college or a 4-year private college, students who preferred that particular college type transferred to another college at a lower rate than students who did not prefer that college type.
  • Among students who initially attended a 4-year public college, students who preferred a 4-year public college transferred to another college at a lower rate than students who preferred a 2-year college. Students who preferred a 4-year private college, however, had the lowest transfer rate among students at a 4-year public college.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Match Between Initial College Type Attended and Students’ College
Type Preference

Graph reads: 11% of college-persisting ACT-tested students who preferred a 2-year college and attended a 2-year college transferred to another college for their second year.

AttendedPreferred a 2-yearPreferred a Public 4-yearPreferred a Private 4-year
2-year11%18%21%
Public 4-year17%12%10%
Private 4-year18%16%9%

Note: Based on 88% of college-persisting ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom college type preference is available.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Match Between Location of Initial College Attended and Students’ College Location Preference

  • Among in-state students, those who preferred to attend college in state had a lower transfer rate than students who preferred to attend college out of state.
  • Among those students who initially attended college out of state, students who preferred an out-of-state college had a lower transfer rate than those who preferred an in-state college.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Match Between Location of Initial College Attended and Students’
College Location Preference

Graph reads: 13% of college-persisting ACT-tested students who preferred an in-state college and attended an in-state college transferred to another college for their second year.

AttendedPreferred in-state collegePreferred out-of-state college
In-state college13%15%
Out-of-state college17%13%

Note: Based on 86% of college-persisting ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom college location preference is available.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Match Between Distance to Initial College Attended and Students’ College Distance Preference

  • Regardless of the distance to the college initially attended, students who preferred to attend college within that distance category transferred to another college at a lower rate than students who preferred to attend a college at some other distance from their home.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Match Between Distance to Initial College Attended and Students’
College Distance Preference

Graph reads: 9% of college-persisting ACT-tested students who preferred a college within 25 miles of their home and attended college within 25 miles of their home transferred to another college for their second year.

Attended collegePreferred college less than 26 milesPreferred college 26–100 milesPreferred college more than 100 miles
Less than 26 miles9%13%17%
26–100 miles16%14%15%
More than 100 miles19%17%13%

Note: Based on 60% of college-persisting ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom college distance preference is available.


Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Number of College Preferences Met with Their Initial College Attended

  • The percentage of students who transferred to another college decreases as the number of their preferences met with their initial college increases.
  • Roughly 1 out of 10 students who attended a college that matched all three of their self-reported college preferences (i.e., college type, college location, and college distance) transferred to another college. In comparison, about 1 out of 5 students who attended a college that did not match any of their college preferences transferred to another college.
Chart showing Percent of Persisting Students Who Transferred by the Number of College Preferences Met with Their Initial College Attended

Graph reads: 19% of college-persisting ACT-tested students who initially attended a college that did not match any of their college preferences (i.e., college type, college location, and college distance) transferred to another college for their second year.

Number of Preferences MetStudents Who Transferred
019%
117%
214%
311%

Note: Based on 59% of college-persisting ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom all three college preferences (i.e., college type, college location, and college distance) are available.