The internal vertical transfer phenomenon: an exploration of the lived experiences and perceptions of internal transfer students from an embedded two-year institution

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


Existing literature focuses on external transfer students, transitioning from community colleges to a new and separate four-year college and understanding the transfer process and transfer student success. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological inquiry was the examination of the intricacies of the transfer process between a two-year embedded institution to the parent four-year institution and how internal transfer students navigate the transfer process towards successful baccalaureate degree completion. Three research questions guided this study -- (1) How do internal transfer students who started at a two-year college within a regional public institution describe their transfer experiences to their four-year programs? (2) How do transfer experiences differ between students who selected to start at the two-year institution and those who intended to start at the four-year level but were placed into the two-year program? (3) What do internal transfer students believe the institution should do to support their retention? Utilizing an interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) methodology, face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of 10 internal transfer students enrolled in four-year programs. Data analysis was conducted in two phases. Phase one involved transcribing the interviews. Phase two consisted of a two-part coding process. Open coding identified areas of comparisons and led to the development of a broad set of codes. In the second phase, the theoretical frameworks of Schlossberg's Transition Theory and Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory were applied during the axial coding process. Six themes emerged: Sense of Agency; Sense of Identity; Paying for College; Institutional Supports; Institutional Procedures; and Building Transfer Capital. Results indicate internal transfer students often face challenges similar to external transfer students. Of particular interest were the differences in experiences between the participants who were placed at the two-year college and those who chose to begin at the two-year college. The participants who chose to begin at the two-year college described greater difficulty identifying as students of the parent campus whereas the participants who were placed at the two-year college identified as students of the parent campus from the time they began at the two-year college. Institutional recommendations focused on faculty engagement and advising experiences are provided.




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