A multi-case study, this research was designed to address a dearth of literature focusing on undergraduate transfer students from two- to four-year private institutions. Through a quantitative and qualitative approach, the researcher completed a descriptive data analysis (n = 2,086) and semi-structured student interviews (n = 10).

The purpose of this study was to better understand the makeup of students who transfer from community colleges to private (highly selective) institutions as well as what potential factors were related to their retention and persistence at the baccalaureate level. Two private universities, both geographically located near a large community college system (also identified as the largest feeder schools) were selected.

Literature supports that if four-year colleges and universities with high graduation rates accept more two-year transfer students, the institutions can reach historically underserved populations. Research also verifies that these students do well, and in some cases, graduate at higher numbers than their peers who transferred from four-year institutions. What is lacking in current literature, however, is a focus on two- to four-year private institutions.

Through this multi-case study, using Schlossberg’s Transition Theory as its framework, the researcher found that although the four-year private institutions had many similarities, their two-year transfer populations looked considerably different quantitatively. By way of descriptive data analysis, the researcher analyzed student demographics, retention and persistence, academic performance, and student financial aid and Pell Grant eligibility. Findings from qualitative interviews also provided several main themes such as differences in college culture and environment matter, students’ psychological resources play a role in persistence, scholarships and financial aid are often a necessity to remain enrolled, and strategies for success include a focus on mindset, grit, and gumption.

With insight and tools geared toward practitioners in higher education, this study is also a resource for administrators, faculty, and transfer admission offices. Recommendations highlight why making the case for two- to four-year transfer students at private institutions is valuable, the importance of concentrating on students’ first-year and mental health resources, as well as ways to create a transfer receptive culture vs. a campus with transfer-friendly attributes.

Degree Date

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name



Education Policy and Leadership


Ashley Tull

Second Advisor

Denisa Gandara

Subject Area


Number of Pages