Types of College Credit Transfer

Photo source: Jenkins & Fink, 2015

Out of the students that start at a community college, 80 percent intend to transfer to a 4-year institution and complete a baccalaureate degree. Of the 80 percent, 25 percent do it, and only 17% graduate with a bachelor degree six years later.

The goal of this post is to provide a brief overview of the existing types of college credit transfer. Each type described below is covered in more depth in its own post.

There are three common types of credit transfer depending on the direction the student is taking:

(1) Vertical transfer. This is when a student transfers from a 2-year institution (typically a college) to a 4-year institution (typically a university). This is the most common type of transfer and the most efficient one. Students are likely to lose the least amount of credits during this process.

(2) Horizontal transfer. It occurs when a student attempts to transfer credits between two similar institutions, for example from a 2 –year to a 2–year or from a 4–year to a 4–year institution.

(3) Reverse transfer. It occurs when a student attempts to transfer from a 4-year institution (typically a university) to a 2- year institution (typically a college). This is the least common and least efficient one. It is least efficient because students tend to lose the highest amount of college credit in the process.

I have included below a list of things that can help with the college transfer process, regardless of type or direction:

  • transferring between institutions covered by articulation or institutional transfer agreements facilitates credit transfer.
  • it’s easier to transfer between public institutions than from a public institution to a private one or vice-versa.
  • transfer works best for institutions located within the same state.



Jenkins & Fink (2015) http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/what-we-know-about-transfer.html

Simone (2014) http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014163.pdf

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