Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Davis

Where do Community College Students want to Transfer to?: Essays Examining College Choice for Community College Transfer Students


This study examines the college choice for community college students who are seeking to transfer to a baccalaureate granting institution. I identify community college students who are eligible to transfer to a four-year college and I investigate where they want to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Moreover, I examine students’ college choices about the type of four-year college they are interested in transferring to. I use theories from economics and sociology to examine how college choice occurs. Specifically, I model the college choice process through the theories of Rational Choice, Bounded Rationality and Social Network Analysis. Previous studies examining college choice for community college transfer students have narrowly focused on the share of community college students at selective four-year colleges; these studies find that community college transfer students rarely attend selective four-year colleges and most are public institutions. This study examines factors that influence where community college elect to transfer to. In doing so, this study contributes to our understanding of the stratification in the transfer pathway and destination for community students.

This study, which is situated in California, is ideal to understand college choice for community transfer students due to the robust articulation agreement between the state’s two baccalaureate granting systems and the community college system. Moreover, California is home to the largest community college system in the country and serves over 2 million students. Using mixed methods including conditional logit regression analysis, Social Network Analysis, and qualitative interviews, I examine: (a) where California community college students transfer to and (b) the institutional forces that shape their college choices. My study uses secondary data from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office and original data collected from 114 community college students.

The results reveal disparate transfer patterns for California community college students and students reveal distinct factors that motivate their college transfer choice. An analysis of where students transfer to show that stratification exist with high performing African American and Latinx students less likely to attend a selective institution than their Asian American and White peers. Social Network Analysis examining the applications of high performing community college students reveal that students are interested in attending the more selective public institutions in the state. Qualitative interviews reveal that students are interested in selective universities located in the state because they are trying to be affiliated with prestigious organizations. At the same time, some students said they were interested in attending private in-state colleges and out-of-state institutions but were unable to access information about how to proceed. Findings suggest that information asymmetry influenced where students elected to transfer to.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View