The Costs of Time: Examining the Extent of the Credit Loss Penalty in College Transfer

George Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09) and the Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS), this study examined the risks associated with losing credits in the process of transferring between colleges. The effects of credit loss are considered on the timing of degree completion and student loan debt among vertical transfers who first enroll at community colleges in addition to lateral transfers from four-year colleges. Findings suggest that credit loss functions differently across transfer pathways. Whereas transfers from four-year public colleges owe more in student loans when credits are lost, vertical transfers have a lower probability of completing a bachelor’s degree—though they also appear to be marginally protected if they move to public four-year colleges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-497
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Higher Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023


  • credit loss
  • degree completion
  • lateral transfer
  • student loans
  • student mobility
  • vertical transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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