Moving Across 2-Year Institutions: Who Are Lateral Transfer Students? What Are Their Degree Outcomes?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives/Research Question: This study aims to explore who transfers between 2-year colleges (lateral transfer students) and how these students fare in terms of degree attainment. More specifically, this research explores two research questions: (1) What are the predictors of lateral transfer? (2) Is lateral transfer associated with degree attainment outcomes, time to earn a degree, or cumulative loan debt by the sixth year? Methods: Using the Beginning Postsecondary Students 12:17 data, I compared lateral transfer students to students who never transferred (non-transfer students) to identify the predictors of lateral transfer and examine degree attainment outcomes. I used multinominal logit, logistic regressions, and inverse-probability-weighted regression adjustment matching models. Results: Lateral transfer students were more likely to be female and take college courses in high school than non-transfer students. Six years later, lateral transfer students were more likely to earn all types of college credentials, except for an associate degree, complete a degree more quickly, and still attend college if they had not yet earned a credential than non-transfer students. However, lateral transfer students took out a greater amount of federal loans than non-transfer students. Conclusions: Given the positive degree attainment outcomes, policymakers, and practitioners should reconsider the role of lateral transfer in the college completion agenda and pay more attention to why students make lateral transfers and the nature of their college pathways. This study suggests that lateral transfer has great potential to improve persistence and graduation for students who start their education at a community college.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-444
Number of pages26
JournalCommunity College Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • community college students
  • degree attainment
  • lateral transfer
  • time to degree

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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