Theses Doctoral

Ready for a New Start? A Case Study of Students Who Transfer From Four-Year Institutions to Community College: Experiences and Learned Navigational Strategies

Mitra, Brian R.

The community college has evolved since its inception in the early twentieth century. Its mission has broadened to become a second chance for those who were unsuccessful in previous higher education attempts. The phenomenon of reverse transfer-the path of students who enroll in community colleges after being academically dismissed from a four-year institution - has not been fully explored. Research suggests a variety of reasons for reverse transfer, including lower tuition rates, shifts in educational goals, personal situations, academic difficulty, proximity, and course offerings. However, a holistic perspective of the reverse transfer experience does not exist. More importantly, previous studies did not provide a voice to this experience.
This case study explored how successful reverse transfer students overcame failure, perceived their reverse transfer experience, and learned to navigate opportunities to succeed at the community college. Twenty-eight in-depth interviews painted a holistic picture of the reverse transfer experience and the learning and navigation strategies embedded in successful trajectories. The findings of this study demonstrated that not only was there an emotional impact on reverse transfer students following their dismissal or stop out and a perceived emotional toll for their parents, siblings, and significant others. These emotions served as catalysts to moving forward and were critical in students’ reflections of the reverse transfer experience. Knowledge attainment and skill development played pivotal roles in learning and success at the community college. Participants immersed themselves in community college by engaging in various campus activities and events to hone skills and attain knowledge. Finally, reverse transfer students faced personal and institutional impediments that hindered their success at the community college; in particular, participants described their assumptions of community college, fear of failing again, and lack of confidence as challenges. This study offered recommendations and implications for future research for adult learners, counselors, program developers, administrators, and adult education generally.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Bitterman, Jeanne E.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 2, 2018