Dimensions of the Transfer Choice Gap: Experiences of Latina and Latino Students Who Navigated Transfer Pathways

Winter 2009

Source: Harvard Educational Review. Vol. 79, Iss. 4; pg. 632-658. (Winter 2009).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the authors examine the term the "transfer choice gap" (Bensimon, Dowd, Alford, & Trapp, 2007) for Latino students. This transfer choice gap refers to the phenomenon of students who are academically eligible for transfer to a selective university but elect to transfer instead to a less selective institution or not transfer at all.

The authors investigate what happens to community college students in California who complete the curriculum and grade point average that qualifies them as "ready" for transfer to a four-year college.

Research Questions

The authors address the following research questions:
1 . What are Latina and Latino students' experiences in navigating transfer pathways?
2. What are their lived experiences of transfer (both successful and unsuccessful) to selective institutions?
3. What factors contribute to a transfer choice gap among Latino students?


In this sample of 5 Latino students (three Latina and two Latino students), only one transferred to a selective university (USC) despite the fact that 4 were eligible for transfer admission to a UC. Not one of them applied or transferred to a UC campus despite the design of the California Master Plan, which presumes opportunities for transfer from the community colleges.


The transfer outcomes for the group interviewed illustrate the informational and cultural barriers that students must overcome in order to exercise choice in the selection of transfer institutions.

The findings indicate that institutional "transfer agents", such as instructors and counselors, are needed to help qualified community college students overcome informational and cultural barriers to transfer into selective institutions. The students' transfer stories reveal the detrimental consequences of lack of access to transfer agents.

Bensimon, E. M., Dowd, A. C, Alford, H., & Trapp, F. (2007). Missing 87: A study of the "transfer gap" and "choice gap". Long Beach and Los Angeles: Long Beach City College and the Center for Urban Education, University of Southern California.

Updated: Mar. 02, 2010