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Identifying Transfer Student Subgroups by Academic and Social Adjustment: A Latent Class Analysis


Community college transfer students often experience transfer shock at receiving four-year institutions, which includes a variety of academic, social, and institutional challenges associated with the first-year transfer experience. Research has demonstrated that first-year program interventions can facilitate the transition of first-year college students, and increase persistence and completion. To date, however, there is a dearth of literature on first-year transfer student program interventions and whether these programs would help transfer students acclimate to four-year research institutions. Furthermore, extant literature on the post-transfer experience often groups all transfer students into a single homogeneous student population, which ignores the heterogeneity of this population. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to fill a gap in the literature by using a latent class analysis (LCA) to examine whether meaningful subgroups of transfer students emerged based on their response patterns to academic and social adjustment items. Three covariates (i.e., race and ethnicity, participation in a first-year Transfer Student Success Course, and major) were also added into the LCA model to determine the student characteristics of each of the subgroups. The distal outcome, drop in GPA, was also included in the LCA model to determine whether the subgroups varied on this measure. Data from a newly developed survey, the Transfer Student Transition Survey (TSTS), were used for this study. This survey was distributed to three cohorts of first-year transfer students at a large selective public research university in California. The results of this study indicated the emergence of four transfer student subgroups. Additionally, participants who enrolled in a first-year Transfer Student Success Course were more likely to be in the ideal class, Higher Level of Academic and Social Adjustment (HighA/HighS), which had a higher probability of endorsement on both the academic and social adjustment items. This class also had the smallest drop in GPA across classes. Furthermore, STEM majors were most likely to belong in the lowest class, Lower Level of Academic Adjustment and Social Adjustment (LowA/LowS), which had lowest probability of endorsement on most of the academic and social adjustment items. This study is one of the first to examine community college transfer students as a heterogeneous group and empirical support for first-year transfer student program interventions. Implications for practice, policy and future research are discussed.

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