Washington earns high marks for the ways it helps students transfer from community college to a four-year school.

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Community college is often hailed as a great way to begin a four-year bachelor’s degree because community colleges charge less in tuition, classes are smaller than at a large public university, and there are lots of two-year schools to choose from.  In Washington, for example, there are 34 two-year schools located across the state.

But the actual transfer rate from community colleges to four-year colleges is low. Nationwide, only about 14 percent of students who entered a community college in 2007 and intended to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree actually did so.

But some schools do better than others.  And last week, a national non-profit gave high marks to Washington state, and three schools in particular, for doing a good job of smoothing the transition between two- and four-year schools. A report by the Aspen Institute and Columbia University’s Community College Research Center (CCRC) singled out Everett Community College, University of Washington and Western Washington University for making transfers easier.

The three colleges embrace some or all of the practices that the Aspen and CCRC researchers say are essential to help more students transfer successfully to a bachelor’s degree program. Those practices include making transferring a priority, creating clear pathways to four-year degree programs and offering student advising.

Statewide, Washington’s community colleges have worked out agreements that ensure community college students will get credit for many of their courses at the four-year schools. Everett has taken it a step further, spelling out which courses students should take if they want to transfer, and offering information about transfer options and career options, such as this two-page outline on biological sciences.

Aspen and CCRC researchers praised Everett for collecting data on transfer rates a decade ago, showing the faculty and staff that the rate was low. Just showing how few students were transferring helped get everyone on board with changes the college was trying to make, the researchers found. Between 2007 and 2012, the student transfer rate increased 47 percent, and between 2007 and 2010, the percent of students who earned a bachelor’s degree at a four-year school increased by 57 percent, according to the report.

The report’s authors also give Everett and Western Washington University high marks for talking to students about the importance of selecting their major early. The report describes how WWU President Bruce Shepard’s meetings with regional community college leaders helped send a signal that helping community college students transfer was a priority for him.

Washington students who transfer with an associate’s degree do better than the national average. According to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, 82 percent of Washington community college students who transfer with an associate’s degree have earned a bachelor’s degree after six years. Nationally, only about 41 percent of students who transfer with an associate’s degree earn a bachelor’s.