Knowing that community colleges serve students who have been historically marginalized it is vital to understand state policies, institutional structures, and student dynamics that facilitate transfer success. For those seeking a bachelor’s degree, improving the transfer function is crucial in revitalizing access to a four-year degree while starting at a community college. Previous research on community college transfer has focused on macro-level issues such as the impact on transfer rates or the number of students who attain bachelors. Similarly, there has been an emphasis on using quantitative analyses to understand the impact of policy on community colleges and the likelihood of student transfer.
These approaches have contributed greatly to our understanding of community colleges, the transfer function, and student aspirations. I intentionally speak of race because of the issues in community college and the transfer function stem from racial-neutral policies and practices (Bensimon & Malcom, 2012). Dumas and Anyon (2006) add that many policies are created and implemented without any mention of race, yet they have “racially curious effects” impacting the students in adverse ways. In this sense, my efforts take a racialized approach to understanding transfer culture, transfer aspiration, and transfer reform, and ultimately the impact it has on students of color who attend community college. This is a reminder that ethnographers have an ever-increasing role to play in reframing dominant discourses about community college students, policy, and practice, particularly when these spaces are failing our black and brown community (Weis & Fine, 2004).
Time to do the work.