NACAC Research Finds Counselors Well Informed about Community Colleges, Need Additional Knowledge about Transfer Policies, For-Profit Colleges

Shanda Ivory

Melissa Clinedinst

Atlanta, GA (Feb. 13, 2019) – High school counselors generally feel prepared to advise students about community colleges and believe these institutions offer relatively easy application and enrollment processes, according to new findings from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).  However, the research showed that many counselors feel less knowledgeable about local college transfer policies and for-profit college comparisons.

Community Colleges and Transfer was released today at the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS) annual conference. NACAC is a sponsor of the conference.

“Community colleges are an integral part of the nation’s higher education system, and the two-year to four-year transfer path has become a more common and viable pathway to a baccalaureate degree,” the research brief said. “As students consider their postsecondary plans, secondary school counselors have an important role to play in helping students understand the opportunities available at community colleges—whether it be to prepare for a vocation through certificate/licensing, to earn an associate’s degree, or to ultimately transfer in pursuit of a four-year degree.”

NACAC included questions on its 2017-18 Counseling Trends Survey (CTS) to learn more about secondary school counselors’ attitudes about community college offerings and their preparation to discuss various topics related to community colleges and transfer with students and families. In addition, both the CTS and NACAC’s 2017-18 Admission Trends Survey (ATS) asked about any perceived stigma about community college transfer among various stakeholders, including parents/families, teachers/faculty, counselors and admission officers, and the student body.

“There is no doubt that community colleges offer a valuable and academically challenging pathway through postsecondary education,” said NACAC CEO Joyce Smith. “NACAC’s efforts with NISTS and others in this space helps ensure that students and families have access to information about all their postsecondary options.”

Report findings include:

Counselor Preparation

  • In general, counselors felt at least “moderately prepared” to advise students about community colleges, and they were the most prepared to discuss the process of applying to/enrolling in community college. However, fewer than 40 percent felt very prepared about important topics such as local community college transfer policies and for-profit college comparisons.
  • Slightly more than half of counselors (55 percent) had received professional development on advising students for community college enrollment in the past three years.


  • A large majority of counselors strongly agreed that community colleges offer relatively easy application and enrollment processes (82 percent), strong vocational/technical programs (72 percent), and cost savings for a bachelor’s degree (80 percent). However, most counselors reported less positive attitudes about the academic rigor of community college coursework and the ease of transfer to four-year colleges.
  • Counselors at public schools were much more likely to strongly agree that community colleges offer rigorous academic coursework when compared to their private school counterparts (42 percent compared to 23 percent).
  • The highest levels of stigma were reported at private, non-parochial schools. Counselors at more than half of private, non-parochial schools indicated that community college transfer was very stigmatized among parents/families (61 percent) and students (53 percent). Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of survey respondents from private, non-parochial schools reported that community college transfer was very stigmatized among the administration, compared to only 10 percent of private, parochial schools and four percent of public schools.

Download NACAC’s Research Brief: Community Colleges and Transfer.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of more than 15,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process, as outlined in the association's Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.

Expand / Collapse All