Exploring Intersegmental Transfer Partnerships

Exploring Intersegmental Transfer Partnerships


March 2024

Since 2016, College Futures Foundation has supported several intersegmental partnerships between California State University (CSU) campuses and California community colleges in their regions. Ultimately, the goal was to increase the number of students transferring from community colleges and completing bachelor’s degrees at the CSU. In an effort to learn more about these transfer partnership efforts, College Futures Foundation partnered with Education Insights Center (EdInsights) to engage key constituents in a retrospective learning engagement that included a survey, interviews, and meaning making sessions. At the conclusion of the learning engagement, we authored a report that serves to both document and share these learnings, and provide valuable insights to those interested in forming intersegmental transfer partnerships, potential funders, law and policymakers, and researchers.

College Futures Foundation identified five intersegmental partnerships for us to invite into this learning engagement. Through this process, we sought to answer the following questions:

  • What compelled partners to work together on transfer?
  • What did partners undertake during their grant periods?
  • What attributes foster a successful intersegmental transfer partnership?

As part of our findings, we identified the following efforts across partnerships:

  •  Partnerships worked toward removing student barriers to transfer by:
    •  improving the clarity of the transfer process (e.g., CSU campuses provided focused outreach on Associate Degree for Transfer [ADTs] and CSU opportunities);
    • increasing students’ access to a shared point of contact by housing a CSU advisor at the community colleges and/or creating peer mentorship programs at the CSU that support students before and after transfer; and
    • creating transfer-specific scholarships and/or employment at the CSU campus.
  • Partnerships changed policies, practices, and procedures in an effort to improve transfer students’ sense of belonging at the CSU campus by:
    • beginning or expanding CSU campus contact with students before they arrived at the CSU, including through co-branded transfer programs at the community colleges;
    • creating CSU campus programming (e.g., transfer-specific orientations, summer transition programs);
    • distributing welcome items at the CSU campus (e.g., shirts with their transfer program brand, “transfer stickers” for faculty and staff to signal their support of transfer students); and
    • creating CSU transfer centers that provide connection to feeder community colleges and serve as a centralized source of support and belonging.
  • Partners collaborated intersegmentally on ways to share data and documents (e.g., enrollment data, transcripts).
  • Partnerships engaged staff and faculty at both CSU campuses and community colleges to create more transfer-receptive institutions, largely through efforts to create curricular alignment.
  • Partnerships identified course and curricular misalignment and administrative barriers as persistent barriers to transfer for students that partnerships were not always able to overcome.

While it is difficult to attribute student-level  outcomes to the partnerships’ grant-funded efforts, most partnerships reported an increase in:

  • student awareness of the CSU campus and ADTs;
  • completion of ADTs; and
  • the proportion of transfers having an ADT compared to before their grant-funded partnerships. 

Across partnerships, most faced challenges with:

  • communication, primarily within and from the CSU campuses;
  • resource constraints (e.g., funding, staffing, and turnover at both CSU campuses and community colleges); and
  • buy-in from campus and college personnel to engage in the partnerships.

For in-depth descriptions of the themes that arose across most partnerships; conclusions and considerations arising from the findings across partnerships, with relevant considerations by audience; and a presentation of case studies of each partnership, read our full report

Looking for more on regional education partnerships? Read these relevant EdInsights publications.

Looking for more on transfer? Read the CSU Student Success Network blog on the evolution of Cal Poly Pomona’s transfer program and case study of San Diego State’s transfer work.