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This longitudinal study of 17,455 students, the majority from underrepresented groups, investigated leaks in the vertical transfer pipeline from associate’s-degree program entry to bachelor’s-degree receipt. Investigated were both the size of the leaks and some associated variables. Pipeline progress examinations included quantification of early persistence, plus application to, enrollment and persistence in, and graduation from, bachelor’s programs. The examined associated variables included student demographic characteristics and possible pipeline leak malleable factors: academic preparation and performance and financial need. Overall, only 23% of the original cohort received a bachelor’s after eight years. In addition, this study is the first to identify and quantify the transfer melt leakage point (students accepted for vertical transfer who do not enroll in bachelor’s programs), and the first to have quantified transfer shock (a transfer-related decrease in GPA) in a large general cohort (shown by 16 percentage points of the cohort). Variables involving quicker degree progress (e.g., being exempt from remediation and enrolling full-time) were negatively associated with pipeline leaks. Together the results provide guidance for policy makers and practitioners regarding how to increase vertical transfer pipeline output and increase bachelor’s degrees by community college students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, thus increasing higher education equity.


This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article scheduled for publication in the Journal of Postsecondary Student Success, available at

This work is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).

Available for download on Wednesday, October 30, 2024