Few of Washington's community college students transfer to a four-year college, but when they do, they graduate at rates much higher than the national average.

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Only about 13 percent of Washington college students who began their educations in community college in fall 2007 had earned a bachelor’s degree in six years, according to a new report by the Community College Research Center. But Washington students who transferred successfully to a four-year college or university were far more likely to finish their degree than transfer students in any other state in the country.

State experts say the low percent of transfer students here likely reflects the landscape of the state’s college system — with all but one of Washington’s public four-year colleges far away from the state’s population centers.

The report, done in collaboration with the Aspen Institute and the National Student Research Center, showed that the national average was only a little higher — 14 percent.

Still, Washington clearly lagged the best-performing states—Wyoming, Montana, and Maryland— where nearly 20 percent of community college students who began in fall 2007 earned a bachelor’s within six years.

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But while Washington transferred out relatively few students, a relatively high number of those who transferred earned bachelor’s degrees.

About 55 percent of the Washington community college students who transferred to a four-year public college successfully earned a bachelor’s degree, a higher percentage than any other state in the country, and well above the national average of 42 percent.

Jan Yoshiwara, education director for the State Board for Community Community and Technical Colleges, said state researchers have interviewed students who were eligible to transfer but didn’t, and found that most of them were working adults raising young children. Because of job and family obligations, these students couldn’t move to Pullman, or Bellingham, or Ellensburg to finish their degrees.

For many, the closest four-year university is the University of Washington – but, as the most selective state school, it turns away many transfer students every year.