Institutional Transfer and the Management of Risk in Higher Education

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Institutional Transfer and the Management of Risk in Higher Education


Regina Deil-Amen (BIO)

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies & Practice and Center for the Study of Higher Education
The University of Arizona

Sara Goldrick-Rab (BIO)

Associate Professor, Departments of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology
Senior Scholar, WISCAPE
University of Wisconsin-Madison


This study explores the circumstances, behaviors, and understandings that lie at the root of student decisions to reverse transfer (transfer from a four-year institution to a two-year institution). In particular, the authors focus on how students experience and respond to the risks induced by an accumulation of inadequate guidance, misaligned goals, misinformed decisions, and the academic and financial challenges inherent in their college trajectories.

Based on qualitative analyses, the authors conclude that the reverse transfer process is inherently an attempt to grapple with the creation, interpretation, and management of the risk of dropping out of college without a four-year degree. Assuming that all students from disadvantaged backgrounds begin college at a four-year school at least somewhat at risk of non-completion, the authors compare the reasons why some are more or less exposed to such risk relative to others of similar circumstances, and how some successfully manage risk in a way that leads to four-year college persistence while others confront risk in a way that leads to reverse transfer.


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