Credit Loss for Engineering Transfer Students: In-depth analyses and visualizations of patterns across students and structures

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Virginia Tech


Broadening participation in engineering has been a pressing goal for decades, yet progress has been slow. The National Academy of Engineering recommends building transfer pathways from community colleges to universities to meet this goal. Much research has focused broadly on curriculum alignment, articulation policies, and academic advising to ease the transfer pathway in efforts to reduce credit loss, which can significantly impact transfer students enrolled in highly sequential degrees, such as engineering. However, minimal scholarship quantifies and visualizes credit loss or explains in detail how and why it occurs—my dissertation explores credit loss for engineering transfer students to understand how and why these students accumulate excess credit. The first phase explores credit loss at a highly intensive research university using institutional data to compare across student characteristics, transfer type, engineering discipline, and state community college institutions. The second phase quantifies and visualizes credit loss for vertical engineering transfer students using data from both the sending and receiving institutions. The results of this study revealed that nearly all engineering transfer students experienced some form of credit loss. The amount of credit loss differs across engineering disciplines, the types of sending institutions, and between community colleges within the same state system. Additionally, this study found that credit loss occurs throughout the entire degree pathway, from high school dual enrollment and AP credits to community college and even post-transfer. Findings can be used to inform advisors, faculty, administrators, and policymakers about the role of credit loss in the engineering transfer process. This work has implications for informing degree pathways, articulation agreements, and policies that promote successful transfer and degree completion, which ultimately has the potential to enhance college affordability.



Transfer Students, Engineering